Kirch kicks Brit joint bid for soccer rights

Mogul accusing ITV, BBC of operating cartel

LONDON — The dispute over rights to air the 2002 World Cup soccer tournament took a fresh turn Monday when German media mogul Leo Kirch urged watchdogs to nix the joint bid for British rights from commercial broadcaster ITV and pubcaster BBC.

In 1996, the Kirch Group paid soccer’s governing body FIFA $500 million for European rights to the 2002 World Cup and $600 million for the 2006 tournament, ending the old system of selling direct to the industry.

But the rival British broadcasters, who have jointly aired the tourney since 1966, are refusing to pay the $244 million Kirch is demanding and have stuck together to offer just $57 million.

Now Kirch has accused them of operating a cartel and asked the U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading to examine the bidding arrangements. News comes just days after Kirch resolved another soccer dispute with German pubcaster ARD. At issue were broadcasts of the popular Bundesliga league games. Kirch, which owns the rights to air league matches, will allow ARD to show 90 seconds of highlights from each of two games on its news show.

ARD had threatened to take Kirch to Germany’s Supreme Court to protect its right to show results “of public importance.”

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