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Prasar Bharati moves SC against Delhi HC judgment on World Cup telecasts

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NEW DELHI: Prasar Bharati today filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court (SC) to appeal against the judgment of the Delhi High Court (HC) barring it from sharing signals of the ICC World Cup Cricket 2015 with cable operators.

The leave petition presented by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi is expected to come up for hearing on 10 February.

In its judgment, the HC had refused to strike down the must carry clause under which cable operators have to carry signals of Doordarshan.

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 its order, the Court refused to strike down a 2000 notification issued by Prasar Bharati, which made it mandatory for cable operators to carry DD National and DD News channels. Simultaneously, the court also rejected the additional prayers by ESPN Star to strike down Section 3 of the Sports Act, which makes it mandatory for them to share with Prasar Bharati the live feed of sporting events of national importance.

DD officials said the Mandatory Sharing Act was clear that matches would have to be shared with DD on its terrestrial network and via its direct-to-home Freedish. An official said the directive by the Court appeared to be a precautionary measure aimed at warning cable operators who pirate the signals and not Doordarshan.

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 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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