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Seven, Ten legal spat rumbles on

Australia’s Network Ten has vowed it would not be “bullied” by Network Seven after a court it ordered to pay its rival’s legal costs in their bitter row over programming veteran John Stephens.

Ten claims Seven has overstated the size of its legal costs, and reiterated a Supreme Court ruling last momth that its contract with Stephens, which is the root of the spat, remained “on foot”. However, that ruling also decreed Ten should pay legal costs.

A statement released to Australian media today read: “Network Ten notes there has been speculation about the costs Seven will seek to recover. If the speculation is correct, Seven is over-reaching and its rumoured legal fees are overblown and extortionate.
“Network Ten will fight its claim every step of the way through the cost assessment process over the coming months.”

Last month, a Supreme Court ruled Ten should pay Seven’s legal costs after failing to prevent Stephens from working for Seven for a period of two years. Stephens had initially signed a contract to move from Seven to Ten, but allegedly reneged on the agreement after Seven had offered to quadruple his previous pay packet. He claimed he signed the Ten contract while under the influence of painkiller medication.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported today Stephens had actually offered to not work for any of Australia’s top three commercial broadcasters for 12 months if Seven and Ten agreed to pay him A$50,000 (US$46,700) each.

An Australian court heard Stephens made the offer to Ten a week before the trail began last month, but Ten rejected it and instead went to trial.

Seven had not released a response at press time today.