Telstra returns fire in ACCC content fight

Telstra has hit back at the competition watchdog over its assault on telecommunications companies' moves to sign exclusive deals for the distribution of content from national sporting events.A Telstra spokesperson, Rod Bruem, said it was "unfair" for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to target the telecommunications heavyweight as the carrier had not yet even entered the 3G mobile market, which the watchdog's boss had focussed on in some comments reported this morning.

Telstra has hit back at the competition watchdog over its assault on telecommunications companies' moves to sign exclusive deals for the distribution of content from national sporting events.

A Telstra spokesperson, Rod Bruem, said it was "unfair" for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to target the telecommunications heavyweight as the carrier had not yet even entered the 3G mobile market, which the watchdog's boss had focussed on in some comments reported this morning.

While ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel appeared to soften remarks specific to Telstra in radio interviews late this morning -- saying he was not singling one player out, but rather "could see the potential for a dominant market player" to engage in conduct relating to sports content with anticompetitive results -- an initial newspaper report makes it very clear Telstra is on his mind. While the telecommunications player is yet to enter the 3G market, it has signed some exclusive broadband sports content deals through its BigPond Internet arm.

"Clearly the ACCC has any concerns where there's an aggregation of assets, in this case content to be transmitted by whatever means that might lead to an anti-competitive result," Samuel told ABC Radio.

"In the area of 3G telephony, we now have the real potential for, at the very least, Hutchison, Vodafone, Optus and Telstra to be making major inroads in the joint venture arrangements they've reached on infrastructure.

"We wouldn't want to see any of those particular competitors aggregating all the valuable sporting content that might be ... an integral part of the bundling and of the competition in this area, such that they excluded other competitors."

However, Bruem said "we feel it's a little unfair for the chairman to have singled out Telstra given that we are not dominant in the [3G] market which he is addressing".

Bruem hit back at Samuels' comment that the ACCC was examining legal avenues under the Trade Practices Act to see what could be done about sporting content deals.

"Telstra fully complies with the Trade Practices Act. The ACCC is a regulator and not a policy maker. Telstra believes this latest move by the ACCC to establish policy undermines its authority as a regulator causing uncertainly in the business community," he said.

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