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Belgium May Back VT4

The Belgian State Council, the country’s supreme court on administrative matters, is expected to side with U.K.-based VT4 in what is becoming a test case of the European Union’s powers to override regulations in broadcasting laws.

The prosecutor of the Belgian state council, whose advice is usually followed by the court itself, has recommended that VT4 continue to be allowed to remain on the Belgian cable. The court in late January provisionally suspended a decision by Flemish cultural minister Hugo Weckx to keep VT4 off the cable after VT4 pleaded it risked irreparable damage if its Feb. 1 launch was delayed.

Weckx has charged that VT4 fled to the U.K. in order to get around a law that permits only one non-public domestic broadcaster in Flanders – Dutch-language channel and market leader VTM. The culture minister says VT4 blatantly targets Flemish audiences and advertisers and is an illegal Flemish channel in disguise.

Backed by Capital Cities/ABC and pan-Scandinavian group SBS, VT4 claims its U.K. license subjects it to British law and European law, but not local Flemish law. European regulators stepped into the fray in late January when the EC filed a suit against the Belgian government, saying it violated the Television Without Frontiers directive by giving the Flemish and French communities in Belgium too much power to decide media policy in cases like VT4.

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