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Regulator clears acquisition of POP TV operator

Ljubljana, 07 October (STA) - United Group, a US media conglomerate, has received the green light from the Culture Ministry to take over Pro Plus, the operator of the largest commercial TV channels in the country, POP TV and Kanal A, media report on Saturday. The Competition Protection Office will now weigh in as well.

United Group, which already owns the market-leading cable operator Telemach, announced in July it had acquired the media assets of CME group in Slovenia and Croatia.

It asked the ministry, which is in charge of media regulation, for clearance through its Luxembourg affiliate Slovenia Broadband.

Večer and Delo newspapers report that the ministry issues a narrowly formal decision.

It declared is is not competent to decide on the motion since Pro Plus is not entered in the media register as the publisher of a TV programme, rendering formal approval unnecessary.

Delo says the decision is "unusual" since the media act clearly defines associated persons, a definition that makes it clear Pro Plus, POP TV and Kanal A are associated persons.

The ministry told the paper it did not have a legal basis to expand the decision to associated persons.

The takeover is seen as problematic in terms of competition, as it would give United Group control of a huge slice of Slovenian media.

Media studies professor Marko Milosavljević described the takeover in the summer as "probably the biggest and most important such merger in the Slovenian media space since independence."

The Association of Journalists has also expressed concern and urged the regulators to carefully weigh up all the dimensions of the proposed tie-up.

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