Sky News is a British free-to-air television news channel and organisation. Sky News is distributed via a radio news service, and through online channels. It is owned by Sky Group, a division of Comcast. John Ryley is the head of Sky News, a role he has held since June 2006. In 2019, Sky News was named Royal Television Society News Channel of the Year, the 12th time it has held the award. It is a provider of live streaming world news which can be viewed via its website, YouTube, and various mobile devices and digital media players.
|Picture format||1080i HDTV|
(downscaled to 16:9 576i for the SDTV feed)
|Owner||Sky Group (Comcast)|
|Key people||John Ryley (Head of Sky News)|
|Launched||5 February 1989|
|12604 V 22000 5/6 (International)|
|Thor 5 0.8°W|
(Europe & North Africa)
|12418 V 28000 7/8 (International)|
|Channel 202 (SD)|
(UK & Ireland)
A sister channel, Sky News Arabia, is operated as a joint venture with the Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation. Another sister channel, Sky News Australia, was part-owned by Sky News parent Sky plc until December 2016. A channel called Sky News International, simulcasting the UK channel directly but without British advertisements, is available in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Asia Pacific, Australia, and the Americas. Narrated segments (which generally cover lighter issues unrelated to current news stories) are played in lieu of advertisements, and international weather forecasts also are given at the end of each half-hour newswheel. Sponsored advertisements are still broadcast before and/or after the sports news and weather segments. Sky News Radio provides national and international news to commercial radio and community radio stations in the UK and other English-language stations around the world. Sky News also provides content to Yahoo! News. The channel is available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, YouTube, and Pluto TV.
Establishment and early yearsEdit
On 8 June 1988, Rupert Murdoch announced in a speech to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts plans to start a new television news service. Sky News started broadcasting at 6 pm on 5 February 1989.
Visually Sky News looked very neat, with slick and classy presentation and John O'Loan's original vocation as an architect showing in the studio set. Sky had gone for the same format as the Nine O'Clock News on the BBC, which had recently been redesigned to give the impression of activity and immediacy by placing the newsreader against a backdrop of the working newsroom. Sky News, it was universally agreed as staff nodded in vigorous approval, had succeeded rather better at the same thing. The critics were mildly taken aback. Contrary to some of the horror scenarios bandied about by the chattering classes there seemed to be little to grumble about. And as its slogan of 'We're there when you need us,' emphasised, it was always on.
In the early days, the channel operated on a £40 million budget (plus £10 million share of overheads), which led Sam Chisholm, chief executive of the newly merged BSkyB, to suggest to Murdoch that the station be closed, but Murdoch was "pleased with its achievements ... there were overriding reasons of prestige and politics for keeping it ... the final hurdle of the Broadcasting Bill had still to be overcome and the case for the acceptability of Sky would collapse if suddenly there was no news channel." Former Home Secretary William Whitelaw said in the House of Lords in 1990 that Sky News had "a very high reputation ... I admire it, as do many other people, it will certainly waken up both the BBC and ITN and ensure that they compete with what is a very important news service". The channel has never been run for a profit, and has considered using ITN to supplement the service.
By March 1992, Sky News' parent company turned from loss to profit. Sky News was the UK's first 24-hour news channel, broadcast on Astra 1A. It had no local competition until November 1997, when BBC News launched a new 24-hour channel, BBC News 24, now known simply as BBC News. In September 1999, the European Commission ruled against a Sky News complaint, which argued that the publicly funded BBC News 24 was unfair and illegal under EU law. The EC ruled that the television licence fee should be considered state aid (within the meaning of Article 87), but that the BBC's public service remit justified the channel.
In March 2000 Sky News Active was launched, a 24-hour interactive service providing headlines (and other services which ranged from weather, the top story of the day and showbiz) on demand.
On 24 October 2005, Sky News moved to new studios in Isleworth, Greater London, and underwent a major on-screen revamp. The new studio was integrated with the newsroom and boasted the biggest video wall in Britain; it was designed by New York architects Janson Design Group. New music was scored by Adelphoi Music and recorded with a full orchestra at Air Studios, Hampstead, and mastered at Metropolis Studios. New on-screen graphics were launched and the channel began broadcasting in widescreen (16:9) format.
The 2005 relaunch also had the introduction of a new schedule designed around "appointment to view" programmes rather than continuous rolling news. James Rubin joined to present a new evening programme called World News Tonight, Julie Etchingham presented another new "hard-hitting" evening show called The Sky Report, Eamonn Holmes joined to present Sunrise, Kay Burley presented a new programme called Lunchtime Live from 12 to 2 pm, and the daytime show Sky News Today had the introduction of a three-presenter format. However, the relaunched schedule was unsuccessful, and from October 2005, the BBC News channel overtook Sky News in the ratings.
In response to the schedule's unpopularity with viewers, July 2006 saw the removal of the evening programmes—which were replaced by rolling news and an interactive programme, Sky News with Martin Stanford, and the return to a two-presenter format on Sky News Today. These changes came with the arrival of John Ryley, who is still the head of Sky News. On 1 October 2007, Sky introduced another new schedule, extending Kay Burley's Lunchtime Live programme and renaming it Afternoon Live. It also switched to a new format for much of the day, with a solo lead presenter and a summary newsreader. Sky News put more emphasis on interactive news with Martin Stanford's new SkyNews.com programme; an early evening financial news programme presented by Jeff Randall, was also introduced, initially on Mondays only. Further changes were made to the Sky News schedule on 8 September 2008, with Colin Brazier presenting a new show from 1 – 2 pm, The Live Desk, and Martin Stanford's Sky.com News became SkyNews.com, moving to 7 pm every weeknight. More changes took place during the early part of 2009. These changes involved major changes to the layout of the newsroom/studio, the introduction of a morning edition of The Live Desk and the extension of the financial news programme Jeff Randall Live to run for four nights each week, Monday to Thursday.
In preparation for the start of high-definition broadcasting, Sky News moved to its second studio (Studio B) on the morning of 30 March 2010. Broadcasting from Studio B continued until 9 pm on 6 May, when it moved back to the main newsroom and launched Sky News HD in time for the 2010 general election results. Sky News received a graphics refresh and a new logo to coincide with the launch of the new HD channel – this was tried out during the soft launch for Sky News HD on 22 April; Sky News' distinctive orchestral theme music, in use since 2005, was also updated on 6 May 2010. The new title music, orchestrated by David Arnold, was recorded with a 60-piece Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Angel Recording Studios, London, and uses more than 132 audio channels for 18 seconds of sound.
Following the 2015 general election, Sky News was rebranded, with a new top-of-the-hour sequence and on-screen graphics. The traditional opening voiceover, read by Bruce Hammal, was dropped after two decades in use. On 24 October 2016, Sky News began broadcasting from a new studio (Studio 21) at Sky Central, Sky's new headquarters in West London. The "glass box" studio was initially used for broadcasts from 6 am to 6.30 pm each weekday (with the exception of All Out Politics, which comes from Sky's Westminster studio) - as of April 2019 it was only used from 11 am to 7 pm, and 9 pm to 12 am. The schedule was also changed.
In January 2017, Sky moved its business operations into the News Building in central London. On 16 January 2018, Sky moved all its news operations over to Studio 21, "the glass box", and a new studio in Sky Studios.
Comcast Acquisition, 2018–Edit
On 9 December 2016, Sky shareholder 21st Century Fox announced that it had made an offer to acquire the remainder of the company for £11.7 billion. The combination of Sky with Fox's other assets led to concerns that the Murdoch family would attain "material influence over news providers with a significant presence across all key platforms" and "increased influence over the UK news agenda and the political process". Concerns were also raised about recent sexual harassment allegations centered upon Fox's U.S. network Fox News Channel, although Ofcom did deem 21st Century Fox to be "fit and proper" to hold broadcast licences. On 14 December 2017, The Walt Disney Company in turn announced its intent to acquire 21st Century Fox, following the divestiture of certain assets (particularly the U.S. Fox network proper). Analysts felt that would ease regulatory tensions surrounding the Fox purchase of Sky, as Sky was to be included in the purchase, and Disney's scope of media ownership in the UK was not as wide.
In January 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority issued a preliminary report recommending that Sky News be insulated from the remainder of Murdoch's assets, or divested, in order to preserve its editorial independence. The following month, Fox proposed a commitment to funding Sky News for 10 years, and the establishment of an independent editorial board. The commitments would have been inherited by Disney if it completed its purchase. On 3 April 2018, Fox stated that Disney had expressed interest in acquiring Sky News in a separate transaction, not dependent on the outcome of the Disney/Fox purchase.
On 5 June 2018, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock cleared Fox's proposed deal, contingent on the divestiture of Sky News. It also cleared counteroffers for Sky that were being made in a bidding war by U.S. telecoms and media conglomerate Comcast. Comcast made a US$65 billion counter-offer to acquire the 21st Century Fox assets being sold to Disney. Fox rejected the offer, in favour of a higher-valued offer from Disney. Comcast subsequently pursued a counter-offer for Sky only, resulting in the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers ordering that a blind auction be held between Comcast and Fox. On 22 September, Comcast was declared the winner of the auction, resulting in Fox agreeing to sell its controlling stake in Sky to the company.
The sale made Sky News a sister division to NBC News—a U.S.-based news operation owned by Comcast's U.S. media division NBCUniversal, its U.S. pay television news channel MSNBC, as well as Euronews—a pan-European news channel which NBCUniversal owned a stake in at the time of purchase. In April 2019, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts stated that the company was exploring the establishment of a "global" news channel as a joint venture between Sky News and NBC News. In January 2020, it was stated that this new channel would also be carried on NBCUniversal's new U.S. streaming video platform Peacock. In April 2020, it was stated that the launch of the service, now known as NBC Sky World News, would be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On 20 April 2020, NBCUniversal sold its stake in Euronews to one of its existing shareholders, citing a desire to prioritise the NBC/Sky service instead. The proposed service was scrapped in August 2020, resulting in layoffs of 60 employees.
On 3 June 2021, Sky News was rebranded, with an updated top-of-the-hour sequence, soundtrack and on-screen graphics package. A source from Sky News denied speculations that the rebrand was in connection to competing against the forthcoming GB News channel.
Sky News is free-to-air on the Astra 28.2°E satellites carrying Sky. It is also available on Freeview and analogue and digital cable. In 2007, BSkyB announced its intention to cease broadcasting Sky News – as well as other BSkyB channels – over Freeview, pending Ofcom approval.
In the 1990s, short-form news updates were broadcast between programs on other Sky networks, including Sky One, Sky Movies and The Movie Channel. Sky One also simulcast the 11PM Sky World News Hour for a time in the early 1990s.
Sky News InternationalEdit
Sky News is also available internationally on cable systems, on satellite, and in some hotels. While the UK feed is broadcast in 16:9, the international version remained broadcast in a 4:3 picture format until August 2010.
The international version is shown as free-to-air on Astra 1L at 19.2° east. It is also carried encrypted on a number of satellites for international reception, including Hot Bird, Nilesat, Amos 1, and Intelsat 10-02. It is also usually carried on cable systems in Europe, particularly in Northern Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries.
International viewers receive the same programming line-up of Sky News as the UK version. Brief news stories, entertainment news, worldwide weather forecast summaries, and the front pages of international newspapers are broadcast in lieu of UK commercials. The timepiece on the lower left side of the ticker is covered with a banner that says "skynews.com".
On 19 June 2013, Sky News International was added to Apple TV for users in the UK, Ireland, and the United States. Viewers can watch clips or live streaming of the channel at no charge. On 24 July 2013, it was added to the Roku streaming player. Sky News International is available on news.sky.com to viewers around the world. On 30 September 2014, Sky News began live streaming the channel on YouTube. The free streaming service Pluto TV also offers a live feed of Sky News to American users on channel 135. Sky News International is also available in the US on Peacock, the streaming platform of Sky's corporate cousin NBC Universal.
Sky News International's live stream, including the YouTube stream, is not available within Australia.
Sky News Australia was one-third owned by Sky plc until December 2016, when it was acquired by News Corp Australia. It carries Sky News UK overnight and shares some of its presentational style. On Foxtel in Australia, Sky News UK is available on channel 604.
From 2004 to 2006, Sky News Ireland broadcast two newscasts produced in Dublin. The newscasts were cancelled due to low viewership. Sky News in Ireland now carries the same programming as Sky News in the UK, but with local advertising.
Sky TG24, Italy's version of Sky News, launched in 2003.
Previous partnership with CBS NewsEdit
Until 2017, Sky News had a resource-sharing agreement with CBS News in the United States to share footage and reporting. In July 2017, in the wake of Sky's pending takeover by 21st Century Fox (which runs the competing and de facto sister Fox News Channel in the U.S.), and NBC News acquiring a stake in Euronews, CBS ended the agreement and entered into a similar deal with the BBC.
Sky News HDEdit
Beginning in early 2008, Sky News began using HD-capable cameras in the field. Some one-off programmes were made available in HD to Sky+ HD subscribers on Sky On Demand. The programmes included Technofile, Diana: The Final Word, Canoe Man: Rise and Fall of John Darwin, and Pathfinders: Into The Heart Of Afghanistan.
On 20 January 2009, before the launch of the Sky News HD channel, Sky Arts broadcast Sky News coverage in HD of the Inauguration of Barack Obama. Jeremy Thompson fronted the coverage from Washington, D.C. Michael Jackson's memorial service was also broadcast in HD, with Kay Burley presenting.
The first live broadcast of Sky News HD, on Sky Channel 517, was the channel's election debate, which was held on 22 April 2010. For the 10 days leading up to the debate, channel 517 displayed a countdown clock to launch. The debate was hosted in HD by Kay Burley and Adam Boulton. Following the end of the coverage for the evening, channel 517 moved to show a looping preview tape. The tape included the HD, which were available on Sky Anytime. The loop continued until Sky News HD was launched on the evening of 6 May 2010, coinciding with the coverage of the 2010 general election results, hosted by Adam Boulton.
On 1 January 2015, Sky News HD launched on Virgin Media.
Sky News RadioEdit
In March 2007, BSkyB and Chrysalis Group announced plans to launch a dedicated Sky News Radio station on the proposed bid by Channel 4's 4 Digital Group for the second digital audio broadcasting multiplex in the United Kingdom. However, two months later Chrysalis sold its radio stations to Global Radio, and in October 2007 following a business review Global's chief executive announced that it would be withdrawing from the joint venture.
Sky News RawEdit
On 5 February 2019, Sky News launched a pop-up channel called Sky News Raw. It aired with behind-the-scenes programming from 07:00 to 17:00 on channel 523 on Sky TV and online via Sky News' social media channels. The pop-up channel celebrated the 30th anniversary of Sky News, having first broadcast on 5 February 1989.
Robotic cameras were placed around the newsroom and planning rooms at Sky Studios, in the three main television studios at Osterley and Millbank, and in the broadcast galleries. There were also behind-the-scenes features from elsewhere in the newsgathering operation, such as the Sky News helicopter and ENG vehicles.
Sky News Brexit-FreeEdit
From 16 October to 1 November 2019, Sky News ran a pop-up channel called Sky News Brexit-Free. The channel aired on weekdays from 17:00 to 22:00, and carried coverage of other news headlines unrelated to the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. Sky News head John Ryley cited viewer fatigue over the near-constant coverage of Brexit as justification for the channel.
The channel occasionally focuses on specific areas of society and current affairs. Past examples include Inside Iraq, Green Britain and Crime Uncovered.
Pakistan: On Terror's Frontline was shown throughout the week beginning Monday 23 March 2009. A Sky News press release stated:
Over three days, Sky News will explore why Pakistan has become the frontline of terror and ask what the West can do about it. Jeremy Thompson will present live from the capital Islamabad, interviewing key figures across the community.
The series of reports won a 2009 RTS Award for International News Coverage.
Criticism and perceptionEdit
Sky News operates under Ofcom broadcasting regulations which require impartial, unbiased coverage and prevent the channel from being encrypted in the UK. The channel is viewed by some in the media establishment as an impartial and unbiased provider of news.
There are occasional claims that Sky News may be inherently biased due to the fact that throughout the 1990s and 2000s it was minority owned and dominated by Rupert Murdoch's right-leaning News Corporation, and thereafter the Murdoch family's 21st Century Fox. Many News Corp subsidiaries, including News Corp UK & Ireland Ltd, the owner of the Sun, Times and Sunday Times newspapers, have an openly conservative or right-wing outlook. In a 2010 article in the New Statesman, prominent journalist and broadcaster Mehdi Hasan argued that "in style and in substance, of course, it is nothing like the pro-war, pro-Republican, pro-Palin Fox News Channel... Sky News remains, as far as I can see, free of party political bias." As of October 2018, Fox no longer has any stake in the broadcaster.
In early 1994 Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of The Sun newspaper, was appointed managing director of BSkyB, Sky News's parent company at the time. MacKenzie's proposed changes to Sky News led to clashes with CEO Sam Chisholm and the head of Sky News, Ian Frykberg, who protested at what they saw as an attempt to take the channel's news values downmarket. The most ferocious battle occurred when Mackenzie wanted Sky News to run an interview with Lady Bienvenida Buck. Frykberg refused to air the interview and resigned shortly afterwards. The interview was broadcast on Sky One. MacKenzie announced his resignation in August 1994, but not before Sky News had transmitted live pictures of the freeway chase of O. J. Simpson's white Bronco on 17 June 1994, bringing US helicopter journalism to the UK.
In 1997, Sky News broadcast live coverage of Louise Woodward's trial, held in Boston, Massachusetts. When Sky returned to a regular schedule, viewers demanded the trial coverage be continued. Sky News broadcast reaction from Woodward's home town of Elton, Cheshire, leading to criticism that the station had a pro-Louise Woodward stance.
Ofcom received 832 complaints about a May 2010 interview with electoral reformist David Babbs conducted by Sky News presenter Kay Burley. The interview led to Burley being heckled by protesters while reporting from Westminster, and further protest via a Twitter campaign.
In 2014, Sky News journalist Colin Brazier rifled through an Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 victim's possessions on live TV. He picked up objects and briefly described what he had before putting them down and saying "we shouldn't really be doing this I suppose, really". 110 complaints were submitted to Ofcom. Sky News stated both Brazier "and Sky News apologise profusely for any offence caused".
Sky News was again embroiled in controversy in October 2014, when crime correspondent Martin Brunt and his camera crew doorstepped Brenda Leyland, who had posted controversial comments concerning the McCann investigation on social media. Following the confrontation Leyland was found dead in a hotel, leading to calls on social media for Brunt to be sacked. During the inquest into Leyland's death, Brunt expressed to the coroner that he was devastated at hearing the news of Leyland's suicide. Following the inquest, Ofcom reported it had received 171 complaints in relation to the case and that it would consider these complaints in light of the coroner's verdict.
In 2015, Kay Burley caused further controversy when, in response to the November 2015 Paris attacks, she tweeted a photograph of a Golden Retriever dog, to which she had added, "Sadness in his eyes #parisattacks".
In April 2003, Sky News carried a report from James Forlong aboard the British nuclear submarine HMS Splendid purportedly showing a live firing of a cruise missile during the Iraq war. The report was a fabrication, with the crew acting along for the benefit of the cameras. The Sky News team did not accompany the submarine when it left port and the scenes were actually recorded whilst the vessel was docked. The shot of the missile launch had been obtained from stock footage.
The faked report was revealed because another film crew did accompany the vessel to sea, and its footage showed that a modern missile is not launched by a crew member pressing a red button marked with the word "FIRE", as had been portrayed in the Sky News report, but is actually launched with a left mouse click. When the fabrication was exposed, Forlong and his producer were suspended. The next day, The Guardian reported that Forlong had resigned following an internal investigation. In a follow-up article, The Guardian speculated on the long-term effects on Sky News credibility. In October 2003, Forlong was found dead by his wife after committing suicide. In December, Sky News was fined £50,000 by the Independent Television Commission for breaching accuracy regulations.
In August 2016 Sky News was criticised after allegedly paying €2,000 to a group of Romanians to pretend they were part of an eastern European gang selling guns to terrorists in Syria. The Romanians were arrested by Romanian DIICOT and confessed that they were paid by Sky News journalist Stuart Ramsay to pretend they were gun traffickers. The guns featured in the report were legally owned and were hunting weapons. Sky News has said it stands by the story.
In November 2008 BSkyB paid substantial undisclosed libel damages to Robert Murat in relation to their reporting of the abduction of Madeleine McCann. Sky News had falsely suggested that Murat, who was assisting in the search of McCann, had acted like child murderer Ian Huntley following McCann's disappearance. Sky News also falsely accused Murat of misleading journalists into thinking he was working for the police. An apology was also placed on the Sky News website, the libellous material removed and Murat's costs were paid.
In November 2010 the Attorney General for England and Wales, Dominic Grieve QC, was given the right to launch contempt of court proceedings against Sky News over the broadcaster's alleged breach of a media injunction. It was in relation to the reporting of the story of Paul and Rachel Chandler, a Kent couple who were held captive by Somali pirates for 13 months. The media was blocked from publishing details of the couple's "health and welfare" prior to their being freed on 14 November 2010. Sky claims that it "scrupulously observed the terms of the injunction", but also admitted that it "followed the spirit, if not the letter" of the order. At the time, lawyers representing the Chandlers obtained the court order over fears that their lives could be put in danger by the media reporting their capture. Sky News was alleged to have breached the injunction on the day of their release around from Somalia, leading the Attorney General to seek permission at the High Court to bring contempt proceedings. The Attorney General dropped the case in January 2012; a spokesperson for his office said that continuing with proceedings would no longer be in the public interest.
In March 2013 Sky News journalist Mark Stone and his camera operator were detained in Tiananmen Square live on television, in what he described as a surreal but telling episode about reporting in China. Viewers saw Stone being directed into a police van live from Beijing. A police officer was filmed asking the Sky team to switch off their camera, saying they were now inside the Forbidden City and did not have permission to film there. While they had permission to film in the square, Stone said police told him the team were not displaying their passes correctly.
In June 2007, Sky News was named Best News Channel at the Broadcast Digital Channel Awards. It beat several other national and international broadcasters, including Al Jazeera English and the BBC.
Sky News won a BAFTA Award in the News Category on 13 May 2018 for "The Rohingya Crisis". Special Correspondent Alex Crawford, cameraman Martin Smith and producer Neville Lazarus travelled into Myanmar to bring a first-hand report of what was happening in Rakhine State. The same programme also won an International Emmy Award for News in October 2018.
In November 2014, Sky News sponsored the Young Person in Business category of the National Chamber Awards. It was won by Oliver Bryssau of Origin Broadband, which was named Business of the Year.
Bureaus and studiosEdit
Sky News has bureaus across the world; some are operated in conjunction with other media outlets.
- Beijing, People's Republic of China
- Brussels, Belgium
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Dublin, Republic of Ireland
- Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine
- Johannesburg, South Africa
- Melbourne, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Moscow, Russia (with NTV Russia)
- New Delhi, India (with Wion Tv and Zee Live)
- New York City, US
- Sydney, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Washington, D.C., US
Additional live studiosEdit
- Auckland, New Zealand (with Sky News New Zealand)
- Adelaide, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Brisbane, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Canberra, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Los Angeles, U.S.
- Milan, Italy (with Sky TG24)
- Perth, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Rome, Italy (with Sky TG24)
news.sky.com is the channel's main website. It provides news, sport, weather, showbiz and business stories.
In 2009, the website changed to bring it in line with the on-screen look of Sky News. The site made use of Flash video encoding to match the visual style of the TV channel with pictures and breaking news. The site underwent a further refresh in 2012, when both the look of the pages and the content management system were updated.
In 2021, to bring the website in line with the new Sky News branding on-screen minor tweaks were made such as font updates and updated breaking news graphics.
Virgin Media disputeEdit
On 1 March 2007, Sky's agreement to provide its basic channels (including Sky News) to Virgin Media expired. At midnight, Sky News was removed and the EPG entry for the channel was changed to "Sky Snooze Try BBC" until Sir Richard Branson demanded the message be removed, saying: "I have asked them to take it down. We do not mean any disrespect to Sky News. I think it is a very good news channel."
Sky News, and the other Sky channels that had been removed, reappeared on Virgin Media on 13 November 2008.
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