TS News - RAI International In Court

TELE-satellit News, 7 February 1997

RAI International In Court
  MILAN, Italy, 97/02/07 (TS) -- Italian state television RAI and satellite
operator Nuova Telespazio are being sued in court by their  former partners
in the pay-TV venture RAI International aimed at viewers in North America
according to Italian daily "Corriere della Sera". The court action has been
undertaken by Christian Viertel, a former movie director of German origin
but currently living in the U.S.

  The whole affair goes back to 1990 when RAI executives came up with the
idea of starting a satellite TV service for Italians in North America. They
signed an agreement with Christian Viertal, a representative of a Swiss
company called Kayfourcast, headed by Swiss financial expert Pierre Hafner.
According to the agreement, RAI was responsible for the programming,
Telespazio was in charge of satellite transmissions while the Geneva-based
company offered its know-how for running a pay-TV service.

  Unfortunately, Italians living in the U.S. did not subscribe in such
large numbers as expected and the financial situation of the venture was
not good. Viertel and Hafner were not in a situation to continue financing
the venture and in 1993 they sought the help of Saudi sheik Saleh Kamel. A
deal was reached since Kamel has for a long time dreamed of starting a
satellite service for Saudi Arabia. The Saudi businessman bought a 40%
stake in the autumn of 1994 and several months later took a controlling
interest. In the meantime, he was joined by the Tunisian-born movie
producer Tarak Ben Ammar, who is in fact a close friend of Italian media
mogul Silvio Berlusconi.

  Kamel teamed up with Saudi prince Al Waleed, one of the minority
shareholders of Berlusconi's TV holding company Mediaset. Interestingly,
Waleed's satellite venture for viewers in the Middle East called ART
started using Telespazio's uplinking facilities located at Avezzano.

  The two former partners, Hafner and Viertel quarreled with Viertel,
accusing Hafner of illegally signing contracts with RAI and Telespazio.
Hafner went to jail in 1995 due to fraud charges by former clients while
Viertel started a court action against his former Italian partners for not
fulfilling their part of the deal. A court decision is expected in the next
few months.

  By: Branislav Pekic
(c)TELE-satellit 1997. All rights reserved.

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