Olympic coverage sparks network row in Australia

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SYDNEY -- A decision by Seven Network to enforce its exclusive $80m right to Atlanta Games coverage has sparked a savage fight with rival commercial networks which could affect all sports coverage in Australia.

The first of two key disputes is over access by other networks, including the non-commercial ABC and SBS networks, to Seven's news pictures of Olympic events for replay in news bulletins. The second is demands by Kerry Packer's Nine Network and Network Ten (controlled by Izzy Asper's CamWest Communications) to interview athletes.

Gary Price, managing director of Seven in which Rupert Murdoch holds 15%, says, in reference to Nine Network: "This network has to whine every time they can't have things their own way. I mean Nine... I don't mind if it gets ugly."

Seven and Nine control most TV rights to sports coverage in Australia. Consequently, the dispute threatens on-going general free-to-air exchange of news bites of cricket, tennis, golf, rugby and other football, basketball and big offshore sporting events.

The Federal government has anti-syphoning rules to prevent pay-TV operators showing sports exclusively but there is no way to force networks to share free-to-air coverage.

Copyright July 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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