DD to telecast cricket with 7-minute time lag

NEW DELHI: Millions of viewers who don't have access to the Nimbus owned Neo Sports can finally heave a sigh of relief. The Delhi High Court has ruled that terrestrial broadcaster Doordarshan can telecast the ongoing cricket series between India and the West Indies "deferred live" with a seven-minute delay.

Seven minutes on an average comprises two overs bowled on the trot. All India Radio will, however, be allowed to broadcast its commentary live, with no time lag.

The consensus emerged after the High Court, in its order issued today, ruled that 50 million viewers (who don't have cable TV access) cannot be denied the right to watch the game.

The timing of the ruling is critical since it comes a day ahead of the second One-Day International to be played in Cuttack, Orissa. It may be recalled that millions of viewers missed out on the action Sunday that saw India defeating the West Indies in the first ODI that was played at Nagpur.

While issuing his orders, Justice SK Kaul made it clear that this was an interim ruling and that the final decision about the Sri Lanka series (that follows immediately after the current four-match Pepsi series gets over) will be taken on 8 February.

On the petition filed by Nimbus yesterday, the court asked Prasar Bharati to file its replies by 29 January, to which Nimbus will have to file its rejoinder by 1 February.

Nimbus' counsel argued that it would stand to lose cmmercially if Doordarshan were allowed a live feed and said DD was being adamant despite concessions offered by Neo Sports.

Reacting to the news, information & broadcasting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi welcomed the decision of the court, stating it (the ruling) was only fair considering DD has "96 per cent reach in the country".

Nimbus Sports, the rights holders for the BCCI organized cricket events in India that it had acquired for a whopping $ 612 million, had earlier offered to give the feed to Prasar Bharati, but only under certain specific conditions, and these were not acceptable to the pubcaster.

Nimbus had originally suggested a 15 minute deferred telecast on DD referred 'as live'. Nimbus also did not agree to DD showing the matches on its DTH platform DD Direct Plus.

Nimbus had said if at all it shares the feed, the signals would have to be encrypted so that it reached houses only on the terrestrial network and not those that get DD signals through cable TV.

The talks broke down after Prasar Bharati officials, citing previous government orders and court rulings they claim had gone in their favour, said they should get live feed of the cricket series without any conditions, and that it was also to be shared on DD's DTH platform.

Following the breakdown of talks DD officials had gone back to taking the cover of the Uplink-Downlink Guidelines that perforce allow DD to get the telecast feed.

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