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The BBC, ITV and five indies are being investigated for suspected breaches of competition law relating to their employment of freelancers, centred on potential 'cartel' behaviour over pay rates.

The Competition and Markets Authority today confirmed an investigation into “the purchase of services from freelance providers, and the employment of staff, who support the production, creation and/or broadcasting of television content in the UK, excluding sport content”.

The CMA said it was looking into “a suspected infringement or infringements” of the Chapter I prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 and said it had “reasonable” grounds to suspect at least one breach of competition law.

The indies involved in the case are Hartswood Films, Hat Trick Productions, Red Planet Pictures, Sister and Tiger Aspect Productions.

The CMA formally opened the investigation today and is encouraging anyone with any information about suspected anti-competitive activity to come forward. The process is set to last until at least March 2024.

If it finds evidence of the behaviour under investigation, the CMA can make all parties sign a legal agreement to prevent it from happening again. Alternatively, the companies could be fined up to 10% of their global turnover.

Sport production is subject to an ongoing case relating to the purchase of freelance services and the employment of staff. Launched last year, this initially involved ITV, Sky, BT Group and IMC Media (including Premier League Productions) but in April was extended to the BBC and Sunset+Vine.

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