Oz Media Trial Hears From Former Telstra Boss

22 March 2006

One of Australia's biggest media lawsuits heard from a former telco chief how two major players blocked television company Seven Network's pay-TV arm C7.

Ziggy Switkowski, erstwhile ceo of Telstra, told the court in Sydney that Rupert Murdoch's News Limited and the Packer clan's Publishing & Broadcasting were unwilling to accept C7 on the Foxtel platform, in which all three were major shareholders.

He said that News was motivated by "a preference for its interest in Fox Sports", which it owned 50/50 with PBL.

Seven claims Telstra colluded with the two media giants to put C7 out of business by depriving it of its rights to show Australian Rules Football in 1999 and 2000 [WAMN: 22-Sept-05]. It claims the alleged motive was to create monopolies for Foxtel and Fox Sports.

However, Switkowski told the court he could not recall hearing their motive was to destroy C7, which was scrapped by its parent in 2002.

Details of a briefing note for a September 1999 meeting between Telstra's head of regulatory affairs, Graeme Ward, and a former communications minister said Seven had made a "commercially reasonable" offer to supply C7 to Foxtel.

"Such a deal is extremely unlikely as News and PBL run Fox Sports (the only competitor to C7) and their stated goal is 'to run C7 out of business'", Ward's briefing note said.

Switkowski said he did not recall his executives reporting this to him. Nor did he remember anyone from News or PBL expressing the sentiment.

The hearing continues.

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