Regulators

DD to continue showing World Cup 2015 matches: Supreme Court

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NEW DELHI: Disposing off the application by Star Sports seeking vacation of an interim stay ordered earlier, the Supreme Court today ruled that Doordarshan will continue to show the World Cup 2015 cricket matches and share the feed with cable operators. 


 

The apex Court had on 10 February stayed a judgment of the Delhi High Court of 4 February, which had said that Prasar Bharati cannot share its signals with cable operators.
 
 
The Supreme Court directive came on an appeal by Prasar Bharati, which had taken the plea that the law was clear as far as the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act 2007 and the must carry clause were concerned. Even the High Court had refused to strike down the Act or the must carry clause.
 
 
The order today is by way of disposing the application by Star Sports seeking a vacation of the stay order. However, the matter will now come up for hearing in due course for detailed arguments. It is learnt from legal sources that the case may come up for further arguments in June.
 
 
In an additional affidavit filed at the instance of the apex court, Star Sports had said that it was losing around Rs 290 crore every year by sharing its sports signals with Doordarshan and was expecting to lose around Rs 120 crore by sharing the telecast of the World Cup this year. (Under the Act, the rights holder gets 75 per cent of the revenue from the telecast on DD. The remaining 25 per cent is retained by DD.)
 
 
On the suggestion by Star Sports that DD should run a separate channel without the signals of the World Cup for cable operators or run a scroll that the World Cup telecasts are not meant for cable operators, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had yesterday pointed out that DD had 1400 transmitters all over the country and it was technically not feasible for DD to run a separate channel. Rohatgi told the court that it was mandatory for a private channel under the Sports Act and the Cable TV Network Act to share the feeds of matches of “national importance” with Prasar Bharati for providing it on DD’s free-to-air terrestrial channels.
 
The apex court had on 17 February asked the pubcaster to give its response on the possibility of launching a separate channel. Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose extended the interim order allowing Doordarshan to telecast the matches. 
 
Senior advocate P. Chidambaram on behalf of ESPN and Star Sports said Prasar Bharati could create a mirror image of the World Cup telecast, which does not go to cable operators.
 
 
Star Sports said its experts could help Prasar Bharati in creation of a channel that only carried entertainment programmes minus the World Cup telecasts.


 
In its judgment, the High Court had refused to strike down the must carry clause of 2000 under which cable operators have to carry signals of Doordarshan, and also the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act 2007.
 
 
A bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva passed the order on the plea of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), ESPN and Star who had contended that cable TV operators were getting live feeds through DD channels free of cost, resulting in loss of revenue for them.
 
 
In the order, the Court had said: "The appeal as well as writ petition (civil) 8458/2007 are allowed to the extent that the live broadcasting signal shared by ESPN/STAR by virtue of the Sports Act with Prasar Bharati, shall not be carried in the designated Doordarshan channels under the must carry obligation cast by the Cable TV Network Act on cable operators. This shall operate prospectively."
 
 
In its directive, the Court had observed that while the advertisement revenue received by DD in respect of the shared content of the sports channels was to be shared in the ratio of not less than 75:25, "it still does not cater to the loss of subscription revenue" by ESPN and Star.




BCCI, Nimbus Communications Ltd and the two sports channels (ESPN and Star) had challenged the high court's single judge November 2007 order rejecting their pleas that no cable television network, Direct-to-Home (DTH) Network, multi-system network or local cable operator could broadcast such sports events without a licence from the content owners.  

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