College JCRs have started motions to boycott Sky TV, as they try to persuade the broadcasting giant to grant them charitable status.
At the moment, JCRs across Oxford who wish to have Sky TV are required to pay the full subscription fee for a public license, costing approximately £6000 a year.
SU President of Wadham, Jahnavi Emmanuel explained that the choice to offer charitable status to colleges is at Sky’s discretion. She said: “As far as I’m aware, most JCRs don’t in fact qualify for charitable status and do have to pay the full public license fee. This is because Sky reserves the right to judge the charitable status of any organisation, and when various colleges started raising questions about this a couple of years ago, they clamped down on awarding the subsidised rate to JCRs.
“At Wadham we currently pay the full public license rate which is £6000.”
However, Emmanuel added: “Last term, our SU defeated another motion to switch to another provider.”
Expanding on this, Wadham SU Max McGenity said: “There was a discussion during an SU meeting last Trinity [where] it was decided that we would continue our [Sky] subscription (rather than change to a cheaper alternative) due to popular demand of the more obscure SkySports channels (3, 4 and News) and Sky Atlantic.
“Whilst I was in support of the continuation as it is the union’s job to provide what its members want, the price is more than a wee bit ridiculous.”
He added: “When I look at what makes up the biggest chunks of our budget, Wadham Student Union’s Sky subscription is third only to Queerfest and Wadstock in [monetary] size.
“The SU will continue to pay it for as long as its members want the service, but considering the College is a registered charity, the amount they charge is hardly justifiable.”
To conclude, Emmanuel added: “I have been personally involved in petitioning Sky for charitable status. We will have to wait and see how the Oxford-wide campaign goes!”
St Hugh’s JCR have also been looking at alternatives to their Sky subscription fee.
In an email calling for an emergency JCR meeting to discuss the subject, President Sara Polakova said to students: “There will be an emergency general JCR meeting held this Sunday at 7pm in the JCR. The JCR Committee will put forward alternative and cheaper packages from other providers to be put in place of Sky.
“Every package including Sky will be debated upon and pros/cons will be discussed with the JCR members present. I hence urge EVERYONE who wants a say in this to come. Even if you don’t watch Sky there is over 6000 pounds of the JCR being debated over, so make an appearance.”
Following this, an online vote will take place to decide which proposed TV package is most suitable. Polakova said that “[t]his is the only democratic, representative solution to the issue”, as it will allow all 419 members of the JCR to have a say in the matter.
She added: “In order for us to know which packages are the best solutions, I now urge all JCR members to send in suggestions about what channels they most watch.”
To conclude, Polakova emphasised that it is the duty of JCR members to look at and compare TV packages. She said: “It is up to any member of the JCR to present a convincing argument as to why that particular TV package should be purchased or not. Then we will vote on it. This is the most democratic and fair solution to the whole process. Everyone has an equal opportunity to have their say.”
At a recent Presidents’ Committee meeting, college JCR Presidents decided that boycotting Sky was an action which needed to be taken, so as to persuade the media giant to consider the colleges’ charitable status.
Merton College is one college known to receive a charitable rate subscription from Sky. The college cancelled its Sky subscription in Trinity 2011 before it was able to arrange a better deal with Sky after significant negotiation. It is understood however that Sky has become far more hesitant to provide this same rate for other college JCRs, fearing a flood of applications and large decrease of income for the company.
Oscar Boyd, JCR President of St Anne’s, said that the college was in solidarity if boycott action was taken against Sky. He said: “Anne’s doesn’t have Sky and cannot afford it because Sky is not offering the charity rate.
“However, we are keen to offer support to all the colleges and agree with the boycott and commit to action if it occurs.”
Sky were unavailable for comment when contacted by The Oxford Student.