MEDIA: Sky News to offer mobile text messaging service

Sky News has branched out into the mobile phone text messaging

sector for the first time.



The service is part of a raft of technology initiatives announced by

Sky.



Going live this week, the text news alerts are produced by Sky's

interactive news team and available to Orange users at a cost of 25p per

message, to Vodafone users for 23.5p and to BT Cellnet users for 20p.

Users will receive one or two messages a day.



The cost is higher than existing news alerts on the networks, with

Orange already offering a news service through Ananova for 12p and

Vodafone's alerts free through its Vizzavi service. BT Cellnet users can

gain free news alerts through a 600-free-text-messages-a-month deal with

the Genie network.



Sky head of interactive news Steve Bennedik defended the cost. He said:

'We pride ourselves on being the first with news and offering a quality

service. It's up to the individual if they want to use that.'



Sky News PRO Stella Tooth added: 'For Orange, 25p was the tariff offered

to us and we had no choice.'



Other initiatives being launched include doubling the number of screens

on its interactive TV service Sky News Active.



By February next year there will be eight screens including broadcasts

by Fox News and a live feed of the newsroom.



Online services to journalists have also been beefed up with the first

dedicated publicity site being launched this week.



This includes making available online Sky's quarterly programme

schedule, previously only available in print.



The site (sky.com/publicity) is open to all but plans are being hammered

out to make certain areas, such as listings, available to subscribers

only.



Meanwhile BBC journalist Julie Etchingham has been hired to present Sky

News' breakfast programme Sunrise.



She will co-present the show from February with Simon McCoy and replaces

Natasha Kaplinsky, who joined Sky's Live at Five in October.



Etchingham was a reporter and presenter on BBC Breakfast's news and BBC

News 24. Reporting credits include live broadcasts from the past three

Oscars ceremonies.



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