PARIS — A smoldering row over TV rights to this summer’s Sydney Olympic Games has flared up in France, with uncertainty over who is going to foot a $17 million bill for a share of the French rights.
The pay TV group Canal Plus confirmed Wednesday that it filed a suit with the Paris high court to retrieve $3 million paid as a first installment to the European Broadcasting Union in 1998.
The EBU, whose members are predominantly pubcasters, buys TV rights to sporting events and sells them to its members.
In what it claims is the first flap with a member in its 50-year history, the EBU does not want to give the money back and is insisting that Canal Plus honor its contract.
When the deal was struck, the $56 million French rights were to have been split three ways between Canal Plus and pubcasters France 2 and France 3. But shortly afterward, the European Commission, acting on a complaint from another French TV company, ruled that the pay TV channel was ineligible to share the rights.
A spokesman for Canal Plus said Wednesday: “We respect the EC’s ruling and we will not broadcast the Olympic Games.”
The EBU, however, maintains that the commission amended its ruling so that when other French TV companies who were offered the rights expressed no interest in broadcasting the Games, the contract with Canal remained valid.