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Nine loses exclusive for New Year’s Eve

Judge orders court costs against web

SYDNEY — Kerry Packer’s attempt to prevent pubcaster ABC’s coverage of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve millennium fireworks fizzed Friday when Federal Court Justice Donald Hill threw out a lawsuit by Packer’s Nine Network and awarded court costs against the web.

Nine argued its sponsorship of the event gave it exclusive broadcast rights to the fireworks in Sydney (geographically, the globe’s first major capital to hail the new millennium), prompting it to seek an injunction against the ABC, which is feeding footage to Britain’s BBC and America’s ABC for a worldwide broadcast on 60 webs.

Public purview

Refusing to issue an injunction, Hill said the event and landmarks such as the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House were in the public domain and it was in the public interest to allow Oz’s ABC to air its traditional coverage of the event.

Hill also criticized the lateness of the filing, saying Nine had been aware of ABC’s plans for months.

While the pubcaster got itself into the millennial party, Nine is not giving up on booting it out for future years, taking the matter back to court March 6.

A fuming Nine darkly warned of ramifications for events like the forthcoming Sydney 2000 Olympics, to which Kerry Stokes’ Seven Network has exclusive rights.

‘Fair game’

“Anything outside now is fair game to any network,” Nine exec producer Steve Wood told reporters.

In a related manner, Packer filed suit against newspaper giant Fairfax on Friday, claiming the Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of the fireworks lawsuit intended to “hurt and damage” Packer’s reputation and bring him into “public scandal, odium and contempt.”

A Fairfax spokesman said the suit is “ridiculous.”

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