Television

Windies tour: SC bars Doordarshan from coercing Ten Sports on feed share

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has brought to an abrupt halt pubcaster Doordarshan's "unfettered acess" to coverage of the India cricket team's tours abroad.

In a ruling that will for the present hold only for the forthcoming West Indies tour by the Indian cricket team, the apex court ordered today that Ten Sports has exclusive telecast rights to the series and need not share it with the pubcaster.

A two-judge Bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice LK Panta directed that Prasar Bharati (which manages DD) will not take any coercive step or action for taking the live feed of the matches, a Press Trust of India report said.

India is scheduled to play five one-day matches and four Tests in the Caribbean in a tour that kicks off with the first ODI on 18 May.

The court, according to one of the parties involved in the case, said that the clause in the downlink guidelines relating to making available feeds of all events of national importance to DD on a mandatory basis lacks proper legal teeth.

In the absence of a detailed and written order, which will be issued later by the court, the ramification of this order cannot be fully gauged in terms of the overall downlink guidelines, which is being sought to be implemented by the government from 10 May by when all stipulations have to be fulfilled by a channel to get landing rights in India.

"Going by what the court has said DD will have to do without the West Indies tour, but the ruling is limited to only Ten Sports and the cricket tour concerned for the present," DD director-general Navin Kumar told Indiantelevision.com.

Asked if DD will be restrained from carrying French Open tennis, for which Ten Sports holds exclusive rights for the region, Kumar added, "I suppose Ten Sports will have to move a separate application in the court for that. We cannot comment at the moment on what will be our future course of action."

Last week, Dubai-headquartered Ten Sports had moved the court arguing that if interim relief was not granted to it this time round, a judgment of the court delivered before the recent Indo-Pak series would become infructuous.

Taj Television Ltd, owner of Ten Sports, had in its original petition on the matter sought a stay on the government guidelines making it mandatory for the sports channels to share feed of sporting events of national importance with Prasar Bharati.

It also contended that the court should be guided by the earlier verdict in the India-Pakistan series wherein DD was just a carrier of the Ten Sports signals on its terrestrial network and had also deposited a sum of Rs 150 million in the court towards possible compensation to Ten Sports.

Ten had said it has already sold distribution rights of the West Indies tour to Set Discovery Pvt Ltd, which will have the right to license throughout the country.

The Bench had given an inkling on its thinking on the matter at the last hearing itself in actual fact. During the brief hearing last Friday, the Bench observed that last time it was a series with Pakistan and "matches of Indo-Pak series are different from the others." It added, "For West Indies, many people may not be interested."

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