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Brit indies win TV rights ruling

Britain’s independent TV producers won a final victory yesterday over the ITV web in their battle for the control of program rights.

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission upheld in general terms the ruling by the Office of Fair Trading late last year that ITV’s proposed arrangements for buying programs from indies were anticompetitive.

The MMC said that ITV was attempting to tie up too many rights over too long a period. As a guideline, it said ITV should in general buy U.K. TV rights for no longer than five years at a time, rather than the 10-year period ITV was seeking. ITV should not acquire ancillary of secondary rights.

This ruling means that deficit financing is likely to become an increasingly significant part of British independent production, with ITV no longer putting up the entire program budget. This could create new investment opportunities for U.S. distributors and producers looking for international product.

The MMC also ruled that indies must be allowed to sell their programs direct to ITV’s Network Center, rather than having to go through the regional ITV stations. Indies objected to this arrangement because it forced them to deal with ITV companies which themselves were competing with the indies to sell projects to the network.

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