Television

Ten to play ball as out of court pact possible

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NEW DELHI: After an early morning press conference by Taj Television Ltd. promoter AR Bukhatir, where he allayed fears of blackout on the telly of Tuesdays cricket match in Rawalpindi, the scene of action has shifted to the corridors of power here where the theory of an out of court settlement has gained momentum.

Though Lalit Modi, MD of Modi Enterprises, which looks after the distribution activity of Ten Sports in India, during the Bukhatir press conference told journalists that an out of court settlement would be the last recourse, the theory got a fillip after Bukhatir sought an appointment with information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

According to the latest information available with indiantelevision.com, the meeting is yet to be confirmed as Prasad returned from Mumbai, where he had gone to attend the Ficci Frames 2004 event, just a few hours ago.

According to government sources, a formal offer for an out of court settlement has not been made yet. But it is expected, is how a government official this morning described the situation when asked whether Taj Television of Dubai has sent feelers to the government or Prasar Bharati.

As in a humdinger of a one-dayer, the situation is changing every 15 minutes in Delhi. A sample: at 8.40 am today, Taj TV representatives said Bukhatir has to return to Dubai immediately, while around 11 am, Prasads office confirmed that Bukhatir and a team, comprising Taj TV Ltd CEO Chris McDonald, Lalit Modi and his companys advisor RK Singh, had sought a meeting with the minister.

Meanwhile, Bukhatir, who has been in India since yesterday, has had interactions with the Indian government at various levels, informed sources told indiantelevision.com. When asked about a reported meeting with law minister Arun Jaitley yesterday, Bukhatir told newspersons, It (the meeting) did not come through, but we spoke over phone.

Pointing out that Ten Sports has made huge investments in acquiring sporting properties, Bukhatir said that it was of concern to them to see the rights investments have been damaged over the recent past as Ten has been unilaterally compelled to share its exclusive rights with third parties without any pre-determined agreements or adequate compensation.

Bukhatir, who expressed confidence in the Supreme Court and the Indian government, said, I have advised our distribution partners in India to follow orders of the SC and hope that viewers throughout India will enjoy todays match. The SC, in an interim ruling yesterday, had said that the signals for todays match be made available to Doordarshan, but the terrestrial broadcaster would have to carry Tens logo and also advertisements booked by it. Giving up an aggressive stance taken yesterday by Taj Sports India Pvt Ltd, the distribution and marketing agent of Taj Sports Ltd in India, Bukhatir today said that Ten is in India to do business on a long term basis. If we have to do that, we must also respect the law of the land, he added.

TEN MAY BID FOR BCCI TELECAST RIGHTS

While the cricket telecast controversy rages on, consuming the nations attention and kilos of newsprint and hours of airtime on various TV channels, Dubai-based Taj Sports today indicated that it may bid for cricket telecast rights of matches to be organised under the aegis of Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI).

The BCCI cricket telecast rights, at present with pubcaster DD, would be up for grabs later this year. Those who have shown interest include Sony Entertainment TV India, Sahara group, ESPN-Star Sports and even Prasar Bharati.

Thats our intention, Chris McDonald , CEO of Taj Sports Ltd, said when asked by indiantelevision.com whether his company would bid for BCCI cricket, considering the problems that it has got entangled here with DD.However, he added that the company would have to study the tender documents for terms and conditions carefully before putting up the money for the telecast rights.

Asked whether Ten has faced similar problems in other countries, McDonald retorted, I cant say I have.

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