Television

Star Sports incurs Rs 290 crore annual loss by sharing signals with DD; SC reserves order

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NEW DELHI: Prasar Bharati today categorically ruled out the possibility of running separate channels for showing ICC Cricket World Cup matches live.

This assertion was made in the Supreme Court, which later reserved orders on the appeal by Prasar Bharati against the order of the Delhi High Court, which had earlier this month directed Doordarshan not to share live signals of the matches with cable operators.

The apex court had on Tuesday 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 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 Doordarshan in showing entertainment programmes on its channel at the time when World Cup telecast is on.

Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi on behalf of Prasar Bharati said that this was technically not feasible.

Rohatgi denied a contention made by Chidambaram that DD had in fact set up a separate channel at the time of the last Commonwealth Games. He said the channel had merely donned new colours in keeping with the Games.

Star Sports and Prasar Bharati filed their respective additional affidavits as directed by the Court on 17 February.

Star Sports said in its affidavit that it had incurred loss of Rs 290 crore last year for sharing sports signals with Doordarshan and was expected to incur a further loss of Rs 120 crore for the World Cup telecasts alone this year.

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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