News World in crisis as parent faces bankruptcy

News conference rivals: News World, left, and News Xchange

The future of the News World conference and exhibition appeared to be hanging in the balance this week after financial difficulties facing its parent company led to a breakdown in merger talks with rival News Xchange.

Banff Television Foundation, the Canadian company behind the 10year-old News World conference and the eponymous Banff Television festival, filed for bankruptcy protection last week, with debts believed to be up to $900,000 (£500,000).

Canadian venture capitalist Achilles Partners LLC has stepped in to take over running of the forthcoming 25th Banff Television festival in June, but the future of the news broadcasting conference seemed less clear.

The protection move comes two weeks after Banff Television Foundation’s chief executive Pat Ferns stepped down from the role amid company restructuring.

Formal discussions of a possible merger or joint venture between News World and News Xchange – the company that broke away from it three years ago – commenced soon after last year’s events. Both conferences saw the futility in serving the same marketplace while halving the potential incomes.

According to Jim Gold, managing director of Gold Media Services, the company that runs News Xchange, both companies were still in discussions until Banff’s financial difficulties emerged.

“It’s highly unlikely we’ll be making any deals with a company with financial difficulties,” he told Press Gazette this week. “It doesn’t look like there is any hope of a link-up between Banff or News World. I’ve always thought we were in a healthy position already. It was never an imperative for us to do a deal with them, but in hindsight I can see why it was an imperative for them to do a deal with us.”

Gold launched News Xchange after leaving News World in 2001. The breakaway conference had its debut in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in October the following year and its second outing in Budapest last November.

The rivalry between the two was evident and came to a head last year when News World brought forward the date of its event to October to beat News Xchange to the punch.

However, broadcasters’ extra overheads as a result of the Iraqi war meant an already limited market was being split in two.

No one from Banff was available for comment as Press Gazette went to press. News World Asia was held in Kuala Lumpur this week.

By Wale Azeez

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