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Murdoch not involved in bid, Polsat asserts

Polsat, the winner of the license to run Poland’s first national private TV web, has denied reports that it is secretly backed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Boguslaw Chrabota, Polsat’s managing director, told Daily Variety that “several serious discussions” had taken place with News Corp. over the past few months, but that they were never completed.

Never replied

A statement sent by Polsat president Zygmunt Solorz to the Polish National Council for TV & Radio claimed that Polsat had received a letter of interest from News but had never replied.

The report of Murdoch’s involvement, which appeared Friday in the Financial Times, the day after the license was awarded, drew a furious reaction from Polsat’s nine defeated rivals, whose backers included major international media groups such as Time Warner, Bertelsmann, Canal Plus and CLT.

Several disappointed bidders immediately called for the license to be revoked , on the grounds that Polsat had concealed Murdoch’s involvement.

It is widely believed that the council chose Polsat because it had no foreign backers.

But the TV council seemed satisfied Friday with Polsat’s assurances. Council spokesman Sulek Boleslaw told Daily Variety, “We deny that Mr. Murdoch is involved in the Polsat bid. There is no foreign capital currently backing the Polsat bid, nor do they intend to seek any in the future.”

Big factor

He added, “It’s not entirely correct to say that Polsat won just because they were an all-Polish company. That was a big factor, but there were all sorts of reasons. … We’re not against foreign capital a priori.”

Boleslaw had good news for Canal Plus, revealing that the council is keen to “find a niche” for the French pay TV giant when it awards the 23 local TV licenses now up for grabs. This decision is expected in the next month.

Intentions not clear

But there remains some confusion regarding Polsat’s attitude to foreign investment in the future. Despite the council’s statement, Chrabota insisted, “We never said we are not interested in foreign partners.”

Indeed, he confirmed that News Corp. was just one of several international companies with which Polsat held discussions. He said that since Polsat won the license last Thursday, it had been swamped with calls from Polish and foreign companies wishing to invest, including some from the backers of defeated bidders.

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