Time Warner has joined the outcry over the communications minister’s decision to halt MDS licensing by the Australian Broadcasting Authority and return the bids unopened.The media giant has been granted friend-of-the-court status in the case brought against the Dept. of Communications by Perth media owner Kerry Stokes. A spokesman for Time Warner said the company had intended to bid for the remaining six free licenses in Sydney and Melbourne. It has applied to the court so that its interests as a third party would be considered in any decision handed down. It would not necessarily go ahead if Stokes wins his suit and bids are on again. At issue is whether the secretary of the department, Graham Evans, had the right to revoke the official invitation to tender for the MDS licenses the day before submission deadline. A loophole in the new Broadcasting Act would have allowed licenses issued ostensibly for narrowcasting to be widened to carry a pay-TV service. After this became clear, minister Bob Collins halted the auction Jan. 28, claiming “microwave was inferior technology” and that government policy was for pay TV to be a digitalized signal delivered via satellite. In Sydney, Steve Cosser’s Australis Media, which owns the other 24 licenses in Sydney and Melbourne, has two lawsuits against the minister to be heard March 12. Concurrently, the Trade Practices Commission has begun investigating alleged program price fixing by commercial television operators.
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