Ten commits to give feed to all for Saturday's match

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The match is on. On Doordarshan and all cable networks in the country, even those that have not signed on the dotted line with broadcast rights holder Ten Sports.

The fag end of a day of hearings and verdicts in different courts in the country ended with Ten Sports "voluntarily undertaking" to a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice VN Khare, that for tomorrow's opening One Day International in Karachi, it would provide the signal free of cost to DD and all cable networks. This is undertaking, however, applies only for tomorrow's game.

The Apex Court also directed Ten to ensure that it extends all possible help to the national broadcaster in telecasting the match. The SC will take up the case for further hearing on Monday.

Speaking to journalists outside the Chief Justice's residence, which is where the arguments were heard, Ten Sports CEO Chris McDonald said, "We are happy with the outcome." Asked how much of a loss Ten was likely to incur from giving the signal free in tomorrow's match, McDonald said, "It is a goodwill gesture. We are not looking at monetary considerations for Saturday's match. Enjoy it!" 

Though Mc Donald was playing the nice guy, a source in TEN Sports indicated that saturday's revenue loss may amount upto Rs200 million.

Counsel for Ten Sports Kapil Sibal said the judges also ruled that till the time the SC hears the case next week (Monday) no other court in the country will entertain any litigation relating to this issue.

Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma, who had been hooking all the bouncer-offers from Ten out of the negotiations field for the last two days, late in the evening proclaimed, Its an absolutely good beginning to the series. We have shown everyone that we are a public service broadcaster and it (outcome) is in public interest.

Asked about the (notional) losses that pubcaster Doordarshan, managed by Prasar Bharati, would incur by relaying Ten signals tomorrow, Sarma shot back, "Ihave been advised by the Solicitor-General (of India)that we may carry ads booked by DD." But, on a morecautious note, he added, "We may carry the ads; let see how things turn out tomorrow morning."

Prasar Bharati has been saying that it has commitmentfrom advertisers for spot bookings and sponsorships worth Rs. 1 billion.

Adding further Sarma told that DD is ready to pay a "reasonable sum" (reportedly about $ 8 million) for the terrestrial rights. He however, added that the Dubai-based sports channel had still to react to the offer. Sibal however, clarified that though DD has expressed its willingness to pay a reasonable amount, it hadn't quantified it.

Earlier in the evening, Prasar Bharti had filed a caveat in the Supreme Court to make it a party in case Ten Sports approached it challenging this mornings ruling by the Madras High Court asking the channel to allow DD to telecast the Indo-Pak series.

The direction was given by a Division Bench of the High court, comprising Chief Justice B Subhashan Reddy and Justice M Thanikachalam, while hearing a petition seeking a direction to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to secure the telecasting rights from Ten Sports for Prasar Bharati. 

Later in the day the Bombay High Court gave an identical ruling on a similar petition to that filed in the Chennai court. A PIL has been filed in Lucknow as well on these lines.

The Chennai high court had said that the terestrial signal should be made available to doordarshan. It had also said that DD should pay a right amount to TEN Sports. The court had'nt quantified the amount. 


Interestingly, petitioner Taj Sports India Pvt. Ltd.while seeking a Supreme Court intervention on the Chennai high court ruling refers to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and TRIPS negotiations to which India is a signatory and a participant.

Pointing out that the Chennai HC failed to appreciatethat India is a serious participant in the WTO-led TRIPS regime, the SLP mentions, India in every way is moving toward a transparent globally complaint Intellectual Property Rights regime. Compulsorysimulcast of the petitioners signal would tantamount to confiscation totally opposed to WTO covenants and take India back to the Super 301-like watch lists.

The SLP, a copy of which was obtained by, also states that in case the impugned directions (of the Chennai HC) are not stayed and DD is allowed to telecast the same on free to air (basis), the contract entered into between the petitioner and Pakistan Cricket Board for $ 50 million would be rendered nugatory.

At another place, it has been pleaded that the petitioner would become bankrupt if the all important Indo-Pak cricket series would be simulcast on terrestrial (on) free to air basis.

Pointing out that simulcast on DD would have financial implication, the SLP further pleads that it can lead to a situation where the petitioner would not be in a position to fulfill its past and future commitments and monetary liabilities, thereby rendering their business activities unviable given the negative contribution generated due to possible simulcast.

Ten Sports has continuing liability to pay PCB thecontracted amount of $ 60 million irrespective ofdilution of its rights in India by forced simulcast.Ten Sports would be constrained to breach its payment obligation under the PCB contract.

Whats more, terming the high court order illegal,Taj Sports has also pointed out that the petitioner is the owner of the broadcast reproduction rights andcopyrights and cooperation registered in Dubai, Unitedof Emirates and is not amenable to theurisdiction of the Indian courts.

What is surprising is that the SLP quotes differentfigures for the five-year contract signed in 2003, butbagged in 2002. At some place a figure of $ 50 milliois mentioned, while at another place a sum of $ 60million is referred to.

THE DAY S DRAMAFriday the 12th was a day when rumours flew thick andeverybody who was anybody had a theory to offer.

The Prasar Bharati board, which met in Mumbai,according to Sarma, was not happy with any of theoffers made by Ten, especially the one where thesports broadcaster said it would allow downlinking ofits signals on low power transmitters from PAS 10satellite through decoders distributed by it.

On the other hand, Ten Sports, in a smart move to putsome pressure on DD, first called for a briefing ofthe electronic medium at 12. 30 p.m., which startewell past 1 p.m., with the one meant for the printmedium to be held at 3.30 p.m.

At the afternoon briefing, Taj Sports McDonalddeclared as of that time there was a deadlock and noagreement had been reached between DD and Ten.

MENs Lalit Modi added that as per an offer made byTen to safeguard its financial interests, about acouple of hundreds of decoders would be distributedfree of cost to enable DDs low power transmitters todownlink Ten signals for those areas where cablepenetration is low. In the metros, it would have to bethe Tens satellite signals through cable operators asthe subscription revenue was an important part of thewhole business.

All this while Sarma had maintained that DD wouldpress for being compensated for the revenue lost forrelaying TenSports signals. The opportunity cosfor 20 days (action) cricket would be $ 3 million. Weshould be compensated for, he had said during theday.

Though the cricket soap opera --- presumably scriptedby some Balaji Telefilms writer --- took a temporarybreak late Friday, it promises to be back on the small Screen on Monday.

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