KirchMedia, the main company in the Kirch group, went into receivership on April 8. The company, whose TV interests include Germany's most profitable channel ProSieben and which also controls film and sports rights, will continue to operate for the immediate future under the aegis of its debtor banks, which have agreed to continue funding it. But this can only provide a temporary solution. The banks have clearly said that they expect media professionals to take over running the show within a few months. The door is thus open to media sector investors, both from Germany and elsewhere, and Rupert Murdoch appears to be one of the best placed. He did not intervene to stop the collapse of KirchMedia, in which he holds a small stake of 2.48%, and perhaps hopes to pick up the pieces at a bargain price. Murdoch's British pay TV company, BSkyB, is negotiating to acquire control of the Kirch group's loss-making subscription channel Premiere World, in which it already owns a 22.03% stake. Murdoch could be planning to increase his holding in KirchMedia at a later stage, once it has been restructured and restored to financial health, say analysts.For the companies controlled by Italy's head of state, Silvio Berlusconi - Fininvest and Mediaset - which also have stakes in KirchMedia, the situation is slightly trickier. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has already made very clear that he would not favour a Berlusconi takeover of the company. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that Berlusconi would be content with a minority stake. The banks have said he is "welcome" and there is nothing in German law to prevent foreign groups entering the media sector. The remaining candidates include American giants such as AOL Time Warner or Viacom, who have remained tight-lipped up to now.In Germany itself, the collapse is expected to set a cat among the pigeons. The country's number one media group, Bertelsmann (which controls RTL), has virtually no chance of increasing its TV empire under existing legislation. But newspaper group Axel Springer, which publishes the Bild Zeitung and Die Welt dailies, is already poised to act. It could exchange the debt of Euro 767 it is owed by KirchMedia for parts of the company. One of its great rivals, WA, has also been following the KirchMedia affair very closely and has expressed its interest on several occasions.In an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung on April 19, RTL boss Gerhard Zeiler said the collapse of Kirch would not mean...

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