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TV broadcaster Seven Network Ltd. launched a landmark 1 billion Australian dollar ($775 million) lawsuit Monday against the Australian subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and other top media and telecommunications firms, alleging they conspired to bring down Seven’s cable sports channel. More than 50 lawyers and legal assistants packed into Sydney’s Federal Court on Monday for the start of the case, which has been described as one of the largest media trials in Australian history. The case pits Seven against 22 respondents, including rival media organizations Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd., controlled by Australia’s richest man, Kerry Packer, and News Ltd., the Australian unit of Murdoch’s News Corp. empire. Australia’s government-controlled telecommunications company, Telstra Corp., and two of the country’s biggest football leagues are also named in the case. Seven alleges the defendants conspired in 1999 and 2000 to prevent the network from gaining broadcasting rights to several lucrative sporting events, leaving its cable sports network, C7, without a winter sports schedule. Seven scrapped the network in May 2002, saying it was no longer financially viable. In his opening remarks Monday, Seven’s lawyer Jonathan Sumpton accused News Ltd. of using its management control of Australia’s dominant cable network, Foxtel, to ensure that subscribers could not receive access to C7. He said News Ltd. also made predatory bids for major sports broadcasting rights to prevent C7 from competing against its own sports channel, Fox Sports. Sumpton’s opening remarks are expected to last for most of the week, with the case expected to run up to nine months. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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