Trial will decide TV film rights

A two-day trial starting no earlier than Nov. 23 will decide the fate of the TV rights to more than 1,000 films, currently the subject of a dispute between Thames TV and the ITV network, in alliance with Carlton TV (Daily Variety, Oct. 15).

At a court hearing yesterday to set the date of the full trial, ITV and Thames laid out their rival claims over the package of films.

Thames, which will be replaced by Carlton as the ITV web’s weekday broadcaster in the London region at the end of this year, is refusing to sell its share of the ITV film library to its successor.

Carlton has offered Thames T8 million ($ 13.6 million) for the right to screen the films in London, but Thames believes the package is worth more than double that.

Thames claims it is legally entitled to sell the movies instead to Channel 5 Holdings, the Thames-owned company which is bidding for the license to run Britain’s fifth national TV web. Channel 5 Holdings (or Thames under another name) has offered Thames over T20 million ($ 34 million) for the rights.

The ITV web says that, under the 1987 agreement between all 15 regional ITV companies, any ITV company which loses its franchise is obliged to sell its share of the film library to its successor–in this case, Carlton TV. If no price can be agreed on, the rights revert to ITV’s central office, which will then decide a fair sum for the deal.

However, Thames yesterday initiated a legal suit to nullify the 1987 agreement, alleging that it is illegal under “restraint of trade” laws. Thames further alleges that the agreement was never ratified by the Office of Fair Trading, and was therefore never valid.

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