SC clears decks for cricket telecast on DD

NEW DELHI: As it had happened in the recent past with the historic India-Pakistan cricket series, the Supreme Court today stepped in to untangle the telecast rights issue through an interim order.

The court deferred the hearing of an interim application by Zee Telefilms Ltd questioning the award of rights by the cricket board to Prasar Bharati and Sony Entertainment Television India.

This means that the cricket matches against Australia, South Africa and a one-dayer against Pakistan can be seen on Doordarshan channels within India.

The apex court, however, made it clear that this interim order would be operative till December 2 only, while it continues with its third umpire role on the original petition filed by Zee Telefilms contesting cancellation of a tender process relating to the telecast rights by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Justices N Santosh Hegde, SN Variava, BP Singh, HK Sema and SB Singh cleared the deck for the telecast of the upcoming cricket matches after hearing Zee's counsel Harish Salve and BCCI counsel KK Venugopal this morning.

Still, the bench directed the BCCI, pubcaster Prasar Bharati and SET Satellite Pvt Ltd Singapore (which has the international telecast rights) to maintain separate accounts of the earnings they would make from the advertisement and sale of rights overseas (as in Sony's case) during the telecast of these matches.

This directive was given to take care of any compensation claims in future relating to the original petition of Zee Telefilms, which issued a statement later in the day stating, the apex court's ruling has been given "so that if the final decision is in favour of Zee, then its commercial interests could be protected on the basis of the revenue accounts filed by the parties (concerned)."

As per deals struck by BCCI, live package of the cricket telecast will be prepared by Dubai-based Ten Sports and international syndication would be done by Sony. Doordarshan has been awarded exclusive rights for the domestic coverage of the cricket matches.

In the court today, when Salve pressed for an immediate order to protect Zee's rights, the bench said that it would not be possible to do so immediately.

However, Hegde told Salve that ''supposing we hold that the BCCI is not a state within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution, the BCCI shall be free to do anything they like. But, supposing we hold otherwise, we will protect your (Zee's) rights and nothing will happen to you.''

The court observed, ''It would be in the fitness of things that the hearing on your interim application questioning the grant of telecast rights by the BCCI to Prasar Bharti and Sony is put off till the writ petition filed by you (Zee), challenging cancellation of your bid for domestic telecast rights for the next four years, is decided.''

It was last Thursday that the Indian board announced that live feeds would be produced by Ten Sports network for BCCI, while "telecast, distribution and marketing" would be done by Sony Entertainment Network on a "revenue sharing basis".

The arrangement was done for three events, the India-Australia four-test series, the India-Pakistan Platinum Jubilee match on 13 November and two-test series between India and South Africa in November-December.

Two days later, following national broadcaster Doordarshan's threat to go to court, the Indian cricket board chose to go along with DD in place of Sony, thereby ensuring the removal of government interference.


If the bad news from the apex court were not enough for Zee to digest, another controversy is brewing as the Indian pubcaster, reportedly, has conveyed to Dish TV to discontinue DD National and DD Sports on its platform till cricket is being aired.

Though it is not clear what exactly is the nature of the content, Prasar Bharati officials say a letter has been written to Dish TV management on the availability of DD channels (showing cricket) on the DTH platform.

While pleading ignorance about any DD letter, a Zee Telefilms source did admit that "verbally" Dish TV has been told to discontinue airing DD National and DD Sports for the duration of the cricket matches.

Pointing out that "negotiations are on with DD to resolve this crisis, which may affect Dish TV susbcribers," the source, however, said that technically, it was not feasible for Dish TV to blank out two DD channels on a temporary basis.

If DD channels continue to be on the Dish TV platform (for which no revenue share arrangement is in place till now), subscribers of Dish TV would also get to see the cricket matches - albeit by default.

Technical experts opine that even if DD channels, notably DD Sports and DD National, are not carried on the Dish TV platform, its subscribers could watch the matches as they are likely to be on DD's yet-to-be-formally-launched KU-band service, which can be accessed by Dish TV subscribers too.

Experts further explained that since Dish TV and DD's Ku-band service, at present on a trial run, are on the same satellite, Dish TV's pizza-sized dish antennas would be automatically tuned to the satellite for receiving DD's 

free-to-air DTH service.

If DD is really serious about choking subscribers of Dish TV --- promoted by Zee Telefilms and ASC Enterprise Ltd --- of cricket , then it would have to ensure that DD National and DD Sports are not carried on its DTH service, a highly unlikely scenario.


For the complete picture on the cricket rights saga click here...

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