Wheeling and dealing over Austrian carriage

ATV, ORF appealed to have cost lowered

PRAGUE — The Austrian broadcasting commission is due to meet today to sort out a carriage row that has stopped the country’s first commercial channel from going on air.

In February cable channel Austria TV won the tender for a national license, which gave it “must-carry” status on the nationwide transmitter network owned and operated by state broadcaster ORF.

But ATV and ORF have failed to agree on terms for the use of transmitters. In March, a lower court ruled that ATV should pay 2.15 million euros ($2.13 million) to ORF annually for use of the third channel frequency via the transmitters, and that broadcasting should begin in March 2003.

ORF appeals price, date

ORF appealed the price and the date on the basis of costs and time needed to upgrade transmitters. ATV has also appealed the cost, asking that it to be halved.

ATV, which has been on air as an all-Austrian cable programmer since January 2000, expected to bow its terrestrial service this month.

But there is still some doubt as to whether it will get the greenlight today. According to ATV general manager Tillmann Fuchs, “There is a 50/50 chance of a decision” being reached by the broadcasting commission; otherwise, the hearing will be scheduled next month.

ATV’s largest shareholder, with 33%, is Teutonic media owner Herbert Kloiber through his production-distribution companies Tele Munchen and Concorde. Other shareholders include pan-Euro station group SBS and Dutch-based UPC, a unit of U.S. cable broker UnitedGlobalCom.

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