StarTV and BBC call truce: High Court compromise agreement on Arabic satellite service

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The Independent Online
RUPERT MURDOCH'S StarTV and BBC World Service Television yesterday called a temporary truce in their battle over the Asian satellite market.

Following negotiations between the two companies, Hong Kong- based Star gave a High Court undertaking not to terminate a 10-year partnership under which it broadcasts WSTV until after a full hearing, probably in the new year.

The High Court hearing was instigated by WSTV after it was warned by Star that its plans to launch an Arabic satellite news service would be in conflict with the agreement.

WSTV wanted the court to enjoin Star from putting an end to the arrangement before the courts could determine whether its Arabic service plans would breach the deal.

In the event Star gave an undertaking to this effect after the two groups agreed to a speedy trial of the issue.

In the meantime, WSTV said it intended to continue preparing for the April 1994 launch of its London-based Arabic-language satellite channel, which will be aimed at North Africa and the Middle East.

WSTV's English-language news and current affairs service is broadcast by Star on the Asiasat1 satellite. Its estimated 45 million viewers, primarily in India and China, are the biggest audience so far achieved by Star, which also broadcasts four other channels on the satellite.

Chris Irwin, chief executive of WSTV, said he was happy with the compromise. 'We have got the undertakings we were seeking - to the effect that we won't find ourselves turned off,' he said.

'We are looking for clarification of our relationship with Star and want to be sure everyone understands the true implications of the contract between us.'

But a spokesman for News Corporation, which bought a majority stake in Star three months ago, said that there had never been any threat to terminate the arrangement before the courts could adjudicate.

'We simply stated that in our opinion the Arabic service breached the deal,' he said.

Mr Murdoch's News Corporation bought a controlling stake in Star three months ago, and observers have predicted conflict since he is on record as saying that he wants the Sky news channel to become an international service. Sky news broadcasts on BSkyB, in which News has a 50 per cent stake.