DD gets to air matches, but SC puts riders

NEW DELHI: 'The entire nation can only cheer, if the entire nation gets to watch.'

This is part of self-congratulatory advertisement that India's pubcaster Prasar Bharati is planning to bring out tomorrow after the Supreme Court today, in an interim order, directed Ten Sports to make available a live feed of the remaining three one dayers and three Test matches of the Indo-Pak cricket series to pubcaster Doordarshan even as the war of words continued late in the day with both the warring factions claiming victory and expressing happiness.

The direction was given by a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice V N Khare and Justices N Santosh Hegde and S H Kapadia. The court observed that it would determine later the quantum of revenue losses, if any, suffered by any of the parties and directed DD to deposit a sum of Rs 400 million (in addition to Rs 100 million deposited earlier) as a guarantee within three days.Both the warring factions - Ten Sports and Prasar Bharati - claimed that ultimately the interest of general public of India proved victorious.

K S Sarma, CEO of Prasar, which looks after Doordarshan and All India Radio, said that it was his "dharma" to try getting terrestrial rights in public interest. Earlier in the day, Dubai-based Taj TV Ltd CEO Chris McDonald had quipped, "In the larger public interest, Taj Dubai will be beaming the Ten Sports signal, including the India-Pak matches live on Ten Sports in cable homes across India as well as on DD in the hope and belief that justice will (finally) prevail."

According to Taj Television India Pvt Ltd MD Sharmista Rijhwani, "Today's judgment from the Supreme Court is a landmark judgment and Taj India appreciates the statesmanship and balance with which the judiciary provided comfort to the public as well as assured Taj India of recovery of its commercial losses."

Asked about the claims of compensation being, made by Ten; Sarma said that his orgnaisation would convey to the court the losses that DD would incur by transmitting the Ten signals in toto - complete with ad and logo.

The Supreme Court, however, has directed that Doordarshan would carry the logo of Ten Sports along with its ads half an hour before and after a match and during breaks would not carry any ad booked by it.

Finding that the issues involved in the case were contentious - at one time Ten Sports' lawyers, reportedly, expressed his objection to the signals for the Test matches - the court has fixed 15 April for the final hearing of the Special Leave Petition (SLP) of Taj TV India Pvt. Ltd. seeking to quash the interim orders of the high courts of Chennai and Mumbai, which had directed that DD be made available the live signals by Ten.

Both the parties concerned, however, maintained after the court observation that they are ready for an out of court settlement, provided the other party makes the first move.

Doordarshan was also directed to see that the signals beamed on DD National channel are as much restricted and remain within India. It was made clear that DD should use a satellite that should not cover Middle East at any cost and avoid beaming its signals to Far East, if technically possible.

The court also issued notice to Doordarshan on a contempt petition filed by Taj India, which alleged that Doordarshan showed its advertisements during the telecast of the one dayer yesterday during the break.

After having made his 'dharma' and 'karma' clear, Sarma said, "We'd abide by whatever the court has said and the ad (in the past) had been booked by us as the court had been silent on this aspect earlier."

But in the public interest, several hundred millions of rupees of Indian taxpayers' money is likely to be lost, though government officials today indicated that a law would be brought forward soon, which would make it mandatory for the national broadcaster, DD, to be made available terrestrial 

signals of any event of national importance by any telecast rights holder on mutually agreed commercial terms.

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