Yet another entity joined the pay TV circus Down Under this week, with the allocation by the Australian Broadcasting Authority of 20 national non-satellite pay TV broadcasting licenses to PPV, an offshoot of international electronics giant Philips Electronics Australia.

PPV is a majority Australian company set up and run by Australian Philips directors to satisfy foreign media ownership limitation laws. Officially, Philips is a 20% shareholder.

PPV expects to debut next year with “a mainly movies service, probably on cable delivery.” It plans to offer the same movie at different times on each channel, creating “a pay-per-view, almost video-on-demand” operation, according to PPV director John Boettcher.

Philips Intl. is involved in pay services in Benelux and Scandinavia and has program supply deals the Australian operation may tap into, Boettcher said.

“We will be drawing on the resources of Philips to supply technology and programming. Philips has international relationships with many production houses, but we have to firm up and finalize this when we decide how to utilize these channels,” he said.

He also foreshadowed the use of Philips technology for multimedia and interactive program delivery options in the future.

The service is likely to be delivered via the Telstra/News Corp. cable co-venture, owing to existing Telecom-Philips links, rather than rival cabler Optus Vision.

‘We have spoken to main parties and we do not have a strong relationship with Optus. Philips is the sole hardware and systems integration supplier for Telecom’s Telstra network since last April,” Boettcher said.

An ABA rep told Variety that about 700 such licenses have been awarded to date. However, once licensed, suppliers must negotiate with a cable provider to get a channel.

Also last week, the ABA launched an investigation into media magnate Kerry Packer’s Publishing & Broadcasting’s recent sharebuying sprees of John Fairfax Holdings, owner of two major metropolitan daily newspapers. Packer reportedly purchased $A30 million ($22 million) worth of shares.

The ABA is concerned that Packer may be overreaching his legal maximum stake of 15%.

The ABA also submitted a draft report to Communications Minister Michael Lee, suggesting a federal government production fund to boost local product, valued at $A60 million ($45 million) spread over three years, be split equally between the three main commercial networks. This is at odds with the government’s original intention of giving at least half of the funds to indie producers.

ABA officials declined to comment.