Zee vs. BCCI case now with Delhi HC div. bench; DD lunges for Test & ODI rights at old rates

NEW DELHI: The cricket telecast rights saga just refuses to end with twists and turns greeting and frustrating people concerned. With a court case showing signs of a long inning, pubcaster Doordarshan has upped the ante seeking rights of three Test matches too, apart from one-dayers.

On a day when the Indian cricket board was expected to reveal in the Delhi High Court whether it found Zee Telefilms? bid technically conforming to eligibility criteria, the case on Wednesday got transferred to another division bench on the request of the chief justice of the HC.

The case filed by Zee Telefilms, alleging discrimination by the Indian cricket board, will now be taken up afresh tomorrow just few days ahead of the beginning of Sri Lanka and South Africa?s India visit involving a series of cricket matches.

With the case highly unlikely to be resolved before the arrival of the Lankans and South Africans, pubcaster Prasar Bharati, managers of Doordarshan and All India Radio, might benefit, albeit by default.

Though Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)?s mind is not yet known officially as it has to convey its stand to the court, media reports few days back had hinted that Zee Telefilms? chances of winning the bids under normal circumstances are slim.

BCCI had also sought legal opinion from former attorney-general Soli Sorabjee on the issue before preparing its stand for the Delhi HC, which has admitted a petition filed by Zee Telefilms.

The Marketing Committee of the Board would meet tomorrow to discuss the contentious issue of telecast rights and Sorabjee's opinion would be placed at the meeting.

The present bidders for telecast rights for matches to be organized by the BCCI in India include Zee, ESPN-Star Sports, Sony Entertainment Television India and pubcaster Prasar Bharati.

The present legal impasse is part of long drawn court cases first initiated by ESS and then Zee Telefilms after bids were first invited in 2004, which stand cancelled presently.

Meanwhile, BCCI today suggested former chief election commissioner T S Krishnamurthy as an observer to the Board elections before the Supreme Court.

Prasar Bharati makes a grab for test matches too

While the court case in the Delhi High Court is keeping many busy, including the media, Prasar Bharati is quietly angling for a bigger slice of the telecast cake in the interim --- the three five-day Tests --- realizing BCCI has few options.

?Apart from the one-dayers (to be played amongst Sri Lanka, South Africa and India), we would like to telecast the three Tests also. We have written to the BCCI in this regard today,? Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma told

According to Sarma, if the BCCI agrees to give Prasar Bharati the Tests also, it would be able to market the Test-ODI package better.

?However, BCCI has to inform us of its decision soon,? Sarma said, adding the cricket board has acknowledged an earlier communication on DD?s interest in airing the one-dayers, which hold better marketing prospects.

After the legal wrangling over telecast rights, which broke late 2004, DD has been telecasting BCCI-organised matches that include matches played by India against Australia, South Africa and Pakistan during 2005.

For the forthcoming series of cricket matches DD has offered to pay BCCI telecast rights fee at the rate of Rs. 70 million per one-dayer, which is the same amount as for the Indo-Pakistan series, and has said that it would not mind if the overseas rights were given to any other channel or marketing agency.

For the three five-day Test matches, DD has quoted a price of slightly over Rs 30 million per day.

?Though Test matches don?t get us that many eyeballs, we could try packaging them with the one-dayers,? Sarma said, adding, with his tongue firmly in cheek, that DD would bear financial losses, if any, in the ?interest of the masses? that don?t have much access to cable TV.

Prasar Bharati has also reminded everybody concerned, including the BCCI, that as a pubcaster it should get preferential treatment vis-?-vis private sports broadcasters. This line seems to have been swallowed by some policy-makers who are suggesting a law mandating that all important sports content be shared with the pubcaster on a mandatory basis.

(Rs. 45.33 = $ 1)

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