A new agreement between Sky Business and OUSU means that Oxford common rooms will no longer be charged the commercial rate for Sky TV, provided it is not aired in areas of commercial activity, such as in a college bar. It is estimated that this deal will save over £300,000 across the University.

Previously, some common rooms were being charged the charity rate (c. £1000 per annum) whilst others were forced to pay the full commercial rate (c. £6000 per annum) after failing to gain access to the lower charity rate. Subsequently, colleges such as Worcester and Balliol decided not to have Sky in their JCR, on the grounds that it was too expensive.

At the start of this academic year, OUSU’s Common Room Support Officer, James Raynor, organised a boycott of nine common rooms, each of which threatened to either cancel their existing subscription, or not to subscribe to Sky TV until all common rooms were offered the charity rate. This move came after OUSU and common rooms claimed to be “fed up with this unfair inequity”, and was supported by Domestic Bursars across the Colleges.

Raynor commented, “I’d been trying to solve this problem for the duration of my time at OUSU; and as my term as Common Room Support Officer was drawing to an end we made the decision to step things up a little. Through OUSU support structures I was able to assemble a boycott which gave us the leverage to contact some senior figures at Sky – this meant we could finally open up a constructive dialogue.” 

Jack Matthews, Raynor’s predecessor, compiled evidence for a year in the hope that OUSU would be offered a better deal by Sky, and claimed to have received positive support from common rooms in Cambridge, Durham and St Andrews.

Raynor, on behalf of OUSU and the other parties involved in the boycott, negotiated the new arrangement with Sky, which allows all colleges to access charity rates provided that they do not profit from the subscription through commercial activity.

Fergus Imrie, JCR President at LMH, told Cherwell, “Our JCR had no intention of getting Sky outside of the bar, but we were more than willing to support the proposed boycott. I think it is a fantastic result for Oxford University and in particular the common rooms, but quite frankly no less than we deserve. The colleges are registered charities and thus should receive the charitable rate. I think James did a fantastic job and this highlights the collective power the common rooms have.”

Regarding his success, Raynor said, “Getting the result we wanted and saving hundreds of thousands of pounds for Oxford colleges was really fantastic news. It felt especially good considering how long this has been on the agenda for common rooms. I’d like to thank the common room presidents and bursars in particular for their help.”

OUSU President David J. Townsend said, “The question of whether common rooms should be paying the charity or the commercial rate for Sky has been going round and round for donkey’s years.

“I’m proud that James has worked with common rooms and Colleges to build and deploy this boycott, and that we’ve achieved such a massive saving across the University. This is proof that OUSU can do what no individual common room can do on its own: deliver a huge win for everyone.”  

Sky representatives were unavailable for comment on Monday.