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Springer close to deal with regulators

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BERLIN - Publishing giant Axel Springer has expressed its readiness to accept demands by the Commission on Concentration in the Media (KEK) in order to secure the watchdog's blessing for its takeover of Haim Saban's ProSiebenSat 1 TV group.

A Springer spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company considered the KEK's conditions to be "a positive signal," saying the "measures insuring quality and diversity" were "conceivable."

Those conditions include handing over control of programming to a powerful committee, although the commission has yet to clarify the exact rights and authority such a body would have.

"This would ensure that the whole spectrum of topics and opinions are expressed, free of market interests," the KEK said Tuesday.

The KEK has expressed qualms about the takeover in view of Springer's leading position in Germany's print media market and its control of Bild, the country's No. 1 daily tabloid.

Springer's planned merger with ProSiebenSat 1 would leave the media group with an unacceptable degree of influence on public opinion, according to the commission.

Springer initially proposed establishing a committee to oversee programming, a suggestion the KEK said it would approve only if the new body had "sole responsibility and control" over programming.

The committee must be composed of representatives of "all relevant social groups and organizations," including viewers, the commission said.

A mutually acceptable deal between Springer and the KEK will likely depend on the nuts and bolts of the agreement --- including the selection process for the oversight committee and exactly how much say it would have in the day-to-day operation of the TV group.

While Springer can ask German Economics Minister Michael Glos to overrule the Cartel Office, which is set to rule by the end of the month, it would have to fight a KEK rejection in court.

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