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Sports News of Friday, 25 January 2002

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Metro TV agrees to stop telecasting CAN 2002

Metro TV on Thursday said it would stop re-broadcasting the African Cup of Nations (CAN 2002), which kicked off in Mali last Saturday, in the supreme interest of the nation. It said it would also withdraw the motion on notice for an interim injunction at the Fast Track High Court in Accra.

A joint statement by officials and representatives of Metro TV and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation said these were agreed at a meeting conducted by the National Communication Authority (NCA) to resolve the impasse between the two television stations over the airing of the tournament from TV Africa.

The statement, signed in the presence of Mr Bernard A. Forson, Deputy Director General of the NCA, said the allegation or charge of piracy lodged by the GBC with the police against Metro TV "shall be withdrawn without liberty".

"This agreement shall be without prejudice to the substantive case before the Fast Track High Court," it added. The dispute between GTV and Metro TV over rights to broadcast the African Cup of Nations tournament live bubbled over last Saturday as both stations broadcast the opening match.

At the centre of the dispute was the international TV station, TV Africa, a South African-based company broadcasting the tournament. Midway through the first half, GTV announced that any other station broadcasting the match live was contravening the law. The action was unprofessional and the management staff of the station could be sued. It did not mention Metro TV by name.

Metro TV had filed a suit at the Fast Track Court seeking an injunction that an agreement it signed with TV Africa was still valid and in force and that its termination was wrongful in law. Joined in the suit were the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, under which GTV falls, and Global Media Alliance, the local representatives of TV Africa.

Metro TV was seeking a perpetual order of injunction to restrain TV Africa from going ahead to reallocate the rebroadcast of CAN 2002 and the World Cup (Japan/Korea 2002) to GTV.

It also prayed the court for an order for the defendant to pay special and general damages of 320,000 dollars or its equivalent in cedis being money it spent in expanding its facilities to three regions in anticipation of its obligation under a "Sports Affiliate Agreement" it signed with TV Africa. It now broadcasts in five of the 10 regions in Ghana.

It said while it was frantically preparing to rebroadcast the live sports tournaments, TV Africa on October 19, 2001, wrote a letter terminating the affiliate agreement by December 31, 2001.

In addition, it was seeking an order that TV Africa paid 70,000 dollars being losses that would be incurred as a result of a fall in ratings due to most viewers switching their television sets to GTV during the two tournaments.

Metro TV was also seeking an order that it should be allowed to rebroadcast the two tournaments in accordance with the agreement between the two parties. TV Africa waded into the dispute on Wednesday when it described the allegations by Metro TV that they had the legitimate right to air CAN 2002 as false.

A statement signed by Mr Dave Kelly, Chairman of TV Africa, said TV Africa held the exclusive terrestrial rights to CAN 2002 in Africa except South Africa and it was the only company authorised to license broadcasters to rebroadcast the event.

It said TV Africa negotiated and successfully acquired the exclusive right to broadcast by free terrestrial digital and analogue television the 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 African Cup of Nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, adding that it was only TV Africa which was authorised to negotiate the sub-licensing of these rights to any broadcasters in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The statement said no agreement had therefore been reached with Metro TV in that regard.

Ghana Television, the statement said, was the only authorised terrestrial free-to-air broadcaster in Ghana allowed to rebroadcast the games and that any other station broadcasting the game was doing so illegally.

State withdraw charges against two Metropolitan Television directors

The State on Thursday withdrew charges levelled against two directors of the Metropolitan Television (Metro TV) for allegedly pirating signals of the CAN 2002 matches telecast by Ghana Television (GTV). Mr Gerald Ankrah, Acting Managing Director, pleaded not guilty to infringement of neighbour's right. Mr Fadi Fattal, General Manager, was, however, absent.

The withdrawal followed pronouncement by Mr George Ankomah, counsel for the accused that there had been an agreement between Metro TV and Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) on the rebroadcast of the CAN 2002 matches being played in Mali.

Mr Ankomah told the Tribunal chaired by Mr Imoru Ziblim, that Metro TV and GTV had signed an agreement under the supervision of the National Communication Authority (NCA).

A copy of the agreement stated that Metro TV "shall desist from rebroadcast of CAN 2002 matches and also withdraw the motion of notice for an interim injunction on January 24, 2002 at the Fast Track Court."

Mr Ankomah said one of the concessions of the agreement was that the alleged piracy complaint by GBC shall be withdrawn from court without liberty. He said he had shown a copy of the agreement to the Police and were, therefore, taking steps to fulfil the obligation in it.

Deputy Superintendent of Police, Patrick Sarpong told the tribunal that somewhere in 1998, Metro TV signed an affiliate agreement with TV Africa, a company in Mauritius and represented in Ghana by Global Media Alliance to receive and broadcast programmes of the former under certain conditions.

Prosecution said, however, on October 19, 2001, TV Africa wrote to Metro TV that it would not renew the contract them after the agreement expired on December 31, 2001.

Consequently upon the termination of the agreement with Metro TV, TV Africa signed a new agreement with GTV and granted it the exclusive right to telecast the on going CAN 2002 matches. On Jan 19 Metro TV pirated the signals and telecast the match played on January 19 by using both GTV and Metro TV logos on its screen.