South African TV license award faces challenge

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JOHANNESBURG -- Two of the six unsuccessful bidders for South Africa's first independent terrestrial public TV broadcasting license are to challenge the award of the license in court.

The Independent Broadcasting Authority awarded the license in March to Midi Television, a consortium of "black empowerment" and trade union interests in which Time Warner Entertainment has a 20% stake.

Unsuccessful bidders Free-to-Air and New Channel TV have announced they will apply to the high court for a review of the decision. They have not disclosed the grounds for their action, except to say that it relates to "procedural irregularities."

Free-to-Air is owned by a consortium in which the U.K.'s United News & Media has a 15% stake, and Fox Sports International of Los Angeles has 5%. New Channel has 20% backing from Television Francaise 1.

Other unsuccessful bidders are also believed to be considering action. When announcing the award, the broadcast authority said Midi's corporate staus and strong black empowerment ownership gave it a competitive edge."

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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