Pay-TV channel to appeal against watchdog ruling

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LONDON -- The U.K.'s High Court has granted payTV group Flextech Television leave to appeal for a judicial review against a decision by TV watchdog the Independent Television over changes to the way cable and satellite channels are sold in the U.K.

Flextech, whose channels include Living, Bravo, Challenge and Trouble, lodged papers with the London court last week. The court's decision on whether the channel would be allowed to appeal against the ITC was expected in September. However, the court acted quickly in Flextech's favor and also agreed to an expedition to speed up the process.

The judicial review is now likely to be pushed through before November - the date by which a court case should be heard, given cases currently pending.

Flextech and other pay-TV channels, such as Universal Studios' Sci-Fi Channel Europe, are challenging the ITC's direction which banned minimum carriage requirement and tiering obligations under which content providers are given distribution guarantees from the platform operators who carry their channels. The ITC direction was announced June 26.

Flextech's submission to the High Court argued that the ITC has acted "outside its legal authority" in prohibiting deals in which customers had to subscribe to large numbers of channels.

An ITC spokeswoman says the body is "confident and will strongly defend [its] position." The ITC has been subjected to two judicial reviews in the past - both of which it has won.

Copyright August 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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