Virgin Media customers lose Dave and Gold channels amid UKTV row

Free-to-air channels Dave, Drama, Home, Really and Yesterday were removed from Virgin cable boxes at midnight on Saturday after talks between UKTV and Virgin Media broke down.

Paid-for channels Gold, Alibi, Eden, Good Food and W have also been dropped.

This leaves about four million Virgin households without their usual access to comedy panel game Taskmaster, sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf or re-runs of classic comedies like Only Fools And Horses and Porridge.

On-demand and catch-up programming for the channels will also no longer be available for Virgin customers.

Virgin Media’s chief digital entertainment officer, David Bouchier, accused UKTV of “holding back” channels – including Dave – while asking for “inflated sums of money for its paid channels like Gold”.

The disagreement appears to stem from agreed access to on-demand programming.

He said Virgin were “ready to restore UKTV’s free channels… immediately with UKTV’s permission”.

Replacement programming has been added in place of the lost channels.

UKTV’s comedy and entertainment channel head, Steve North, posted a video on Twitter apologising to disappointed subscribers, but said the “significant” drop in fees being offered to them by Virgin would no longer allow UKTV to “to invest in the shows and channels that you love”.

He asked frustrated customers to contact Virgin Media directly if they wanted to keep receiving the UKTV channels.

BBC Studios – who part-own UKTV – said they were “fully supportive of the approach taken by UKTV management”.

The channels will continue to be available on other paid-for services, including Sky, BT and Talk Talk, as well as online and via UKTV Play.

Virgin TV customers with Freeview or Freesat access will be able to access the free-to-air channels via those services.

Some Virgin Media subscribers have vented their anger on Twitter.

Paul Stride wrote: “I’m expecting to be paying less now #virginmedia or I for one will be cancelling my subscription.”

While Red Dwarf fan Ben Underwood tweeted: “Come on Virgin sort it out before Red Dwarf XIII is confirmed!!”

A further series of the cult space sitcom is understood to be in discussion, but has not yet been commissioned by UKTV.

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