LONDON — The BBC and Rupert Murdoch’s Asian satellite venture Star TV have agreed to a partial separation.
As of April 17, BBC World Service TV, the pubcaster’s 24-hour global news and information channel, will be dropped from Star’s program package in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.
But Star has pledged to continue carrying the BBC in the rest of Asia, including the vital Indian market, for at least another two years.
The deal, announced March 21 by BBC WSTV chairman Bob Phillis and News Corp. director Sam Chisholm, is the consequence of months of tension between the two sides following Murdoch’s acquisition of Star last summer.
It became increasingly clear that News Corp. regarded the BBC news service as a political liability in Star’s quest to develop better relationships with a number of Asian governments, notably the Communist regime in China.
But the BBC’s name is also a powerful draw to audiences in many parts of Asia , especially in India, where the pubcaster’s long-established radio World Service remains hugely influential and respected. World Service TV is believed to attract half of all the ad revenues across Star’s six free channels.
Hence the latest compromise: The BBC will continue to transmit on the southern beam of Star’s Asiasat bird until March 31, 1996, but will be dropped from the northern beam.
The BBC and Star also have agreed to end their legal dispute over the BBC’s plans to launch a version of World Service TV in the Middle East, enabling the pubcaster to push ahead with its Arabic venture.
The original contract between the two sides in 1991 gave either party the right to terminate their relationship unilaterally from December 1994. Thus the BBC on March 21 was presenting the new deal as a victory, guaranteeing its presence in Asia for a further 15 months.
Star TV faces CNN competish
HONG KONG CNN founder Ted Turner says his company, along with a consortium of other broadcasters, will be real competition for satcaster Star TV once new satellites have been launched in the Pacific region.
Addressing the final session of the three-day AIC Pan Asian Cable & Satellite TV Conference (March 22-24) in Hong Kong, Turner said the so-called “Gang of Five” (CNN, TVB Intl., ESPN, HBO and AusTV) will go onto Apstar 1 later this year and Apstar 2 next year, to give Murdoch-owned Star “a real run for their money.”
“We’ve been here with CNN Intl. since 1982 in Japan and Australia and we’ve created less of a stir in those past 12 years than one other company has in six months,” he declared, apparently referring to Star TV’s rocky nine months coming to terms with the political sensitivities of the Asian region.
“Our philosophy has been and continues to be that we always want to come in where we’re wanted, and we never try to force our way or force anybody in any way, shape or form.”
Turner predicted that the coming years in Asia hold disappointment for many broadcasters.
In other remarks at the conference, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Broadcasting James So offered some no-nonsense advice to foreign broadcasters seeking to enter the Asian region.
He said there was a need for some to understand “the factors beneath the surface” in order to build their relationships with governments in the region.
“It’s true the East is more economically dynamic than the West, leading Westerners to come in expecting a social dynamism to match it.
“Sure we’re economically dynamic, but we’re more buttoned-up in our society, more reticent, prim and proper.”
In other news coming out of the conference, Star TV topper Gary Davey said the pan-Asian satcaster would be shifting gears and going more local — a response in part to the East-West divide So described.
Davey said future expansion will consist of “locally focused channels” instead of a single broad pan-Asian target.