Ruling redoes Oz feevee

Cable to be made available to other parties

SYDNEY — A federal court ruling Monday outlawed exclusive content arrangements for cable systems in a decision that could profoundly alter the dynamics of Oz pay TV.

The tussle involves local moguls Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Packer and Kerry Stokes, telco Telstra and antitrust body the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission.

At issue is access to Telstra’s broadband cable, which was built with taxpayer funds and, until now, has been used exclusively by leading feevee operator Foxtel.

Foxtel is half-owned by Telstra, with Packer and Murdoch’s News Corp. owning 25% each. The latter manages the service.

In September, the ACCC declared Telstra’s cable open to other parties, which prompted applications from ethnic outfit TARBS and the feevee sports channels produced by Stokes’ Seven Network for carriage on Telstra/Foxtel’s cable.

Those applications went to court, leading to Monday’s ruling that Foxtel is not entitled to exclusive use of Telstra’s cable, and that the cable must be made available to other parties on fair commercial terms.

While the ruling also has ramifications for Optus, the troubled Cable & Wireless-owned concern slowed serious investment in its pay TV outfit some time ago and is actually eager for more content on its services and the opportunity to share channels.

Foxtel, on the other hand, has built its service around exclusivity.

Foxtel says it will appeal Monday’s decision and is seeking to have the ACCC declaration overturned on the grounds that Telstra-Foxtel’s 1995 pact predates the regulations the ACCC is attempting to enforce.

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