Television

BCCI urges speedy ruling, cites Australia pullout threat

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MUMBAI: The legal tussle over the India cricket rights between Zee, ESPN Star Sports and the BCCI has taken a fresh twist. This afternoon at a hearing before the Bombay High Court, BCCI counsel KK Venugopal produced a letter from Australia Cricket.



"Australia Cricket has declared in no uncertain terms that if the dispute over the broadcast rights was not resolved soon then it would have no choice but to pull out from the tour. Australia Cricket has put sponsorship deals in place including one with the main sponsor Travelex," Venugopal argued.



Should the uncertainty continue there was high probability that its relationship with Travelex would get affected resulting in loss of revenue. Travelex's logo needs to be seen by Australian viewers and if there is no telecast obviously that will not happen, Venugopal said.



The hearings will continue tomorrow morning at 11 am. The BCCI will argue the case on the eligibility merits of the two parties. Venugopal also said that a swift resolution of the matter was imperative as advertisement deals as well as production details need to be finalised two weeks before the event commences. He said that one way for the court to go was to forget about the petition filed by ESS and simply have a rebid through sealed envelopes. It may be recalled that Zee had shot down this proposal. Not surprisingly Zee again loudly protested against this proposed measure saying that it did not have the resources to take on Disney (ESPN's parent company) in another round of bidding.



Zee's counsel Harish Salve alleged lack of transparency on the part of Price Waterhouse Coopers in replying to a letter from ESS. PwC had simply stated that it had not been required to evaluate the bids. He blasted PwC saying, "This is a half truth. In its second letter the BCCI had asked PWC to take away the bids and examine them. PwC in its reply then stated that this was a total change in the scope of services it had originally been required to provide. The BCCI then decided to limit PwC's role once this response had been received. So it is not as if the BCCI never told PwC to do the necessary evaluation.



"PwC could have given ESS the correspondence for examination. Or it could have told ESS that due to shortage of time it had not been able to perform an evaluation. It could even have said that it did not do an evaluation due to a conflict of interest. Disney

after all pays PwC millions of dollars every year in fees. I would also like to point out that the letter was not sent by the bidder but by ESPN Software India."



Salve also alleged that ESS was using the eligibility argument as a way of perpetuating its monopoly. "They are simply trying to shut out a new entrant. If you only mandate that existing producers can perform a task then how will Indian television grow? We have given details of our production facility. ESS by its own admission outsources technical equipment and manpower whether to a great or a lesser degree.



"It is our contention that unless the court finds that what the BCCI did in awarding Zee the rights was gross or completely arbitrary then it should dismiss the petition. There is no question about public interest being infringed upon here. ESS itself has not said that the quality of the telecast would go down if Zee got the rights. We have also committed to telecasting 52 days of domestic cricket. Also the production facilities in Singapore that ESS mentioned in its bid are not used for on site production of cricket. ESS is simply playing on the word production. When ESS states that it produces in house completely it refers to a show like Harsha Online, Sunny By Night. It is only in the case of the Asia Cup that ESS has done complete in-house production. With Natwest Series the feed came from Sky. ESS may have added a camera here or a camera there for a certain angle," Salve said.



CRICKET CASE SCUPPERS IRANI TROPHY TELECAST

The Irani Trophy cricket match between Ranji champions Mumbai and Rest of India beginning at Mohali in Punjab from Wednesday, 22 September, will in all likelihood not be telecast live (unless the court delivers a verdict tomorrow), due to the ongoing legal tussle.



"Our existing agreement with Doordarshan has already expired and the new agreement has not been signed yet due to litigation hence nothing can be said at this stage," BCCI secretary S K Nair has been quoted in a media report as saying.

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