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Assembly sued over the award of broadcast rights

The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is being sued in a row over a lucrative contract to provide broadcasting services at Stormont.

Lawyers for production company Macmillan Media have served a writ on the corporate body, alleging it breached public contract regulations.

The case centres on a preliminary decision to award the rights, believed to be worth up to £2 million, to a rival Belfast-based firm, Pi Communications Ltd.

Macmillan Media, which describes itself as one of the UK's foremost independent multi-media production companies, was originally responsible for the provision of video, sound and broadcasting services on behalf of the Assembly.

The contract later switched to Pi Communications on a five-year deal, due to run out this summer.

Following a new tendering process it was again identified as the successful bidder.

But this decision has now been suspended after High Court proceedings were initiated.

Macmillan Media is seeking a declaration that the Assembly Commission acted in breach of its obligations under the Public Contracts Regulations 2006.

It also argues that the decision is ineffective and should be set aside.

A further alternative damages claim has been included for losses sustained as a result of the defendant's alleged breach of its obligations.

Senior London-based barrister Nigel Giffin QC has been instructed by solicitors representing Macmillan Media. A writ was served on the Assembly Commission this week, giving it 14 days to enter an appearance in response to the action.

An Assembly spokeswoman was unable to go into any details in the case.

She said: “The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission can confirm that proceedings have been instigated, but due to the fact that the litigation is currently ongoing, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission does not wish to comment further at this stage.”

Other requests for information, including how much the contract is worth, could not be answered without going through Freedom of Information procedures.

A spokesman for Macmillan Media also declined to comment on the case.

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