Oz gov’t put ATV up for sale

SYDNEY – Australia TV (ATV), the accident-prone, loss-making Asian satcaster belonging to the Australian Broadcasting Corp., is set to be sold off by Oz’s cost-cutting conservative government.

An ABC rep confirmed the board next week will consider federal requests that the pubcaster divest itself of the service, but declined to comment about reports this could include a wholesale sell-off of ATV. Sources said ABC may retain a contract to supply news and current affairs to the new channel owners.

Knee-deep in a federal review of its own funding and charter arrangements, the ABC would appear to have little choice but to accede to the government’s desire.

ATV launched more than three years ago with a supposedly one-off $4.3 million federal grant, after which it was to be self-sufficient via sponsorships. But revenues fell drastically short of expectations and in June 1995 ATV needed a $2 million lifeline from the ABC board, pending a plea for a government bailout; in November 1995, it received a $14.5 million federal grant.

ATV chief exec Michael Mann, who did not return calls seeking comment, has said the service’s national and regional importance made it deserving of being underwritten by the government.

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