STV Opens New Legal Front in Battle with ITV

A battle between Scottish broadcasters, STV, and the owner of the ITV network, has taken a new twist, with the former opening up a new legal front, this time over new media rights.

On Friday, STV officially lodged its defence against a claim by ITV plc against STV Group, for £38 million (gross). While ITV plc is saying it is seeking recompense for the making of ITV network programmes which STV has opted-out of screening, STV retorts that it is owed £35 million (gross) from, among other things, unpaid advertising revenue. There was an extra counter-claim against the way ITV has supposedly operated its advertising sales agreement, for an estimated two million pounds.

But this morning, STV is additionally seeking what it believes could be £12 million of damages over the way ITV plc has allegedly conducted its new media strategy in Scotland. Says STV, deals struck by ITV with BT Vision and Virgin Media and which operate in Scotland has been done without STV's permission and is detrimental to its business.

Therefore, it is going to court in the hope of stopping further deals by ITV plc that will impact badly on STV, to seek clarification on the status of existing deals, and to seek damages.

Says STV: “Despite the new media rights being acquired and held for the benefit of all Channel 3 licensees, ITV Network and ITV Broadcasting have entered into commercial agreements without obtaining STV's consent. These commercial agreements use and exploit new media rights in STV Central and STV North's licence areas. 

“A claim seeking damages; declaratory relief to determine the precise basis on which such right are held; and an injunction to prevent ITV Network and/or ITV Broadcasting from entering into any further new media rights agreements without STV's consent, was filed [yesterday]. Although the amount of damages will require expert evidence to determine STV estimates that they could be up to £12 million.”

It continues: “Separately, in response to the proceedings issued by ITV, on 13 November 2009 STV submitted its Defence, including claims against ITV for £35 million and an additional counter-claim in respect of the conduct of the Airtime Sales Agreement by ITV Consumer.

“STV is also expecting to file further claims regarding significant prejudicial behaviour on the part of ITV Network and ITV plc. An update on this will be made shortly.”

Adds STV Group plc chief executive, Rob Woodward: “ITV is imposing its brand and service within the STV licence area without our consent, and is not operating in the interests of all the Channel 3 licensees. ITV's actions are detrimental to STV’s brand and business and they are inhibiting our ability to grow as a digital broadcaster. We are ultimately seeking clarity on how new media rights can be exploited, and damages for ITV's actions.”

“We have tried to resolve this through dialogue with ITV but unfortunately we now have no alternative but to resort to legal action. It is essential that we protect and secure STV’s rights within the Channel 3 network and I am confident of our position.”