Free-to-air channel sues pay TV operator over rugby screening

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

MediaWorks NZ logo. Note, CanWest no longer holds a stake in MediaWorks.
Image: MediaWorks..
Sky Network Television logo.
Image: Sky..

The owner of TV3 and the music channel C4, has made an unprecedented move by winning an interim injunction against New Zealand's monopolistic pay television operator, Sky Network Television over their amount of content screened of the Rugby World Cup. TV3, the official RWC television broadcaster for New Zealand, described Sky's actions as illegal and unethical.

MediaWorks, which runs TVWorks and RadioWorks, filed the injunction against Sky in Auckland's High Court today saying it breached fair dealing practices over its use of Rugby World Cup footage. Sky is now temporarily banned from screening TV3's WRC footage on The Cup, Rugby Highlights (channel) and Sport 365 Highlights.

An agreement between MediaWorks and other broadcasters, including Sky, was signed allowing content to be used for news purposes, but state Sky breached the agreement and used content of which it had no right to.

Bill Ralston, former head of news and current affairs at TVNZ (Television New Zealand), said when they had 2003 Rugby World Cup rights, "TV3 pushed the boundary by taking a bit more than they should." The three networks usually pushed the rules but the boundaries were relaxed. "Simply because Sky controls so many sports rights themselves, you can normally get a good quid pro quo out of them. You relax a bit, they relax a bit."

The TVWorks Chief Operating Officer said, "We are simply acting to protect our interests, and the interests of the viewing public." Rick Friesen said, "We believe Sky’s behaviour to be unethical and illegal, and we will be taking whatever action we can to protect the interests of ourselves and every Rugby fan in New Zealand."

An undisclosed amount of money was paid to secure the rights to screen footage, beating TVNZ and Sky. It has been rumoured the cost is to be in the millions of dollars (NZ$).

Sky is yet to make a comment on this action.

A full hearing on the injunction will occur on Friday.