Most independent observers can’t work
out what Seven Network controlling shareholder Kerry Stokes is trying
to achieve with his monster legal action over the closure of Channel
Seven’s pay-TV operation.

While suing the Murdochs and the Packers would normally get you a sympathetic run in the Fairfax press, even BRW
produced a Stuart Washington cover-story last year suggesting Stokes is
playing a high-risk game with limited prospects of success.

However, Stokes has finally got himself some optimistic publicity for his case, but it came on the other side of the world in The Guardian. The story on Tuesday by former SMH business reporter Cossima Marriner was head-lined “Dinkum dust-up as media minnow takes on Australian goliaths.” It began:

Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer could be forced to pay more
than A$1bn (£430m) damages and disband their Australian pay-television
monopoly if they lose a court case mounted by their junior rival.

With Allan Myers QC withdrawing from the case due to prostate cancer,
Stokes went searching for a replacement in the Old Dart which gave
Marriner another local angle to her distinctly Australian story:

With so much at stake strategically and financially, Stokes
is sparing no expense. He has hired of one of Britain’s most highly
paid QCs, Jonathan Sumption. Fresh from representing the former
transport secretary Stephen Byers in the Railtrack case, Sumption will
arrive in Sydney shortly. Reputed to charge at least £1,000 an hour,
Sumption has acted for Murdoch’s BSkyB in the past and represented the
Blair government in the Hutton trial. Stokes is counting on his court
action to level the Australian media playing field.

Peter Fray

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