The establishment of a film studio in Cape Town moved closer to reality following the submission of six business plans, Ebrahim Rasool, the Western Cape's finance Minister, said yesterday.

The preferred bidders would be named in August and building of the studio could start as soon as December, he said, adding that the critical factors in the bids were black economic empowerment along with equity, proven viability and the long-term sustainability of the studio.

In January 11 proposals were received which have now been whittled down to six. However, the bids were hit by controversy over the weekend when it was reported that the sons of some of the country's most eminent political leaders have been ejected from the race to build the film studio.

The row spilled into the open last week after Hlumelo Biko, son of murdered black consciousness leader Steve Biko and ex-UCT (University of Cape Town) vice-chancellor Mamphela Ramphele, filed an urgent application in the Cape High Court.

Biko filed the bid ten days ago on behalf of Sandulela Investment Holdings, a black empowerment company, of which he owns 40%. The company is chaired by Zwelakhe Sisulu, son of the late African National Congress leader Walter Sisulu while Luswazi Vokwana , stepson of Anglican archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, owns another 40% of the company.

Biko asked the court to award his company a 50% stake in Cape Town Motion Picture Studios, a consortium headed by Anton Nel, an SA-born entrepreneur based in Los Angeles, which he said was due in terms of a deal struck between them.

Nel's proposal, along with a rival bid filed by film producer Anant Singh, is one of the leading contenders to win the Western Cape provincial government's approval.

Despite failing to provide the $6.5m (R51m) initially agreed with Nel's consortium, Biko asked the court to award Sandulela half of the shares in the company. Sandulela's application was dismissed with costs.

Among the other bidders are Anant Singh, whose Dreamworld consortium includes the 30% stake of Video Vision Entertainment, represented by Singh, Midi TV (owners of South Africa's free-to-air broadcaster e-tv) with 30%, Fable Mountain with 15% and TTE Investments also with 15%. The rest of the share-holding (10%) has been allocated to an empowerment share warehousing arrangement.