Kirch files suit on blocked TV merger

Group claims EU review unfair

BERLIN — The Munich-based Kirch Group has filed suit against the European Commission’s ban of its proposed digital pay TV merger with Bertelsmann-affiliated CLT-UFA.

“We believe the Commission did not have sufficient information to reach a balanced decision,” a Kirch Group rep told Daily Variety. Kirch lodged the complaint Friday with the European Court in Luxembourg.

In a lengthy petition, Kirch’s lawyers charged European competition commissioner Karel van Miert with having made up his mind to veto the merger before the start of the probe, thereby denying the partners an objective review of their case. The attorneys also accused the EC of overstepping its authority by attempting to impose new market structures with its decision.

CLT-UFA has yet to announce whether it will join the Kirch Group in its suit against the Commission. Since the EC banned the alliance in May, Kirch and CLT-UFA have asked German antitrust officials to allow them to up their stakes in leading German pay TV web Premiere to 50% each.

As part of the vetoed merger plan, the partners agreed to share power in the web after buying out Canal Plus’ share. Kirch currently holds 25% of Premiere, while CLT-UFA has a 37.5% stake.

But Van Miert warned CLT-UFA last week against attempting to bypass the Commission’s ban of the merger by increasing its stake in Premiere.

In an interview with German weekly Focus, Bertelsmann board member Michael Dornemann suggested that CLT-UFA may be open to taking on media mogul Rupert Murdoch as a partner in Premiere.

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