Aussie Judge Urges Mediation in Seven Network Case

07 November 2005

The judge presiding over one of the biggest ever media trials in Australia has urged the parties to reach a mediated settlement.

Justice Ronald Sackville pointed out to TV company Seven Network and the 22 media and telecoms rivals it is suing over sports broadcast rights that the expense of bringing the case was "vast" and that it was potentially damaging to witness.

The trial opened in Sydney in mid-September. Seven alleges that media firms Foxtel, News Ltd and Publishing and Broadcasting, among others, conspired in 1999 and 2000 to prevent its pay TV channel C7 from gaining broadcasting rights to several lucrative sporting events.

The channel was scrapped in 2002 after its parent said it was no longer financially viable. Seven is suing for A$1.1 billion ($813m; €680m; £459m) damages.

Up to now just two of 55 witnesses scheduled to give evidence have appeared in court. Seven's billionaire executive chairman, Kerry Stokes, and his close business adviser, Peter Gammell, have had their credibility and character attacked and challenges were made to the basis of Seven's claim over the closure of C7.

Seven spent A$27 million on the case in the year to June and says it will probably spend as much again this financial year.

Andrew Demetriou, ceo of another defendant, the Australian Football League, said in April that the combined legal costs could reach A$200 million if the case ran its course.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff