M A I N   N E W S

Uncertainty over telecast in spite of SC order
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 15
In view of the tough posture taken by international sports channel Ten Sports over sharing live telecast of the Indo-Pakistan cricket series with Doordarshan (DD) unless $25 million (US) were paid to it by the latter, the Supreme Court in an interim measure today directed the channel to “feed” DD with signals of the Rawalpindi one-day tie tomorrow.

A Bench of Chief Justice V.N. Khare, Mr Justice N. Santosh Hegde and Mr Justice S.H. Kapadia directed Taj (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Dubai-based company Taj TV Pvt Ltd, which owns Ten Sports, to feed the signals to DD tomorrow in view of the great public interest involved in the game. In turn, DD was directed to deposit Rs 10 crore as guarantee money with the apex court registry within two days.

The court further directed DD to show all the advertisements booked by Taj TV to be displayed during the cricket telecast along with the “Ten Sports” logo.

Despite the court’s specific direction, Taj India’s counsel Kapil Sibal said his client could not guarantee providing signals to DD unless the same were made available to it by the Dubai-based company, which had the “exclusive” right of the telecast of all cricket matches from Pakistan for the next five years under a $ 50 million contract with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

He said there should not be such a direction as it might result in hauling of his client for contempt of court.

Posting further hearing till March 17 on an appeal by Ten Sports against the Madras High Court’s interim order on Friday asking it to provide the cricket matches signals to DD, the Bench said, “We do not want to pre-judge the matter, we will see if you are in contempt on Wednesday.”

Taj’s counsel outrightly rejected the offer of $ 10 million made by Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee and Additional Solicitor-General Kirit Raval on behalf of DD for sharing the telecast of the cricket series in Pakistan with DD.

Mr Sorabjee said the demand of $ 25 million by Taj India, was “highly unreasonable” considering the fact that their entire contract with the PCB for five years was worth $ 50 million. “They want to earn half of the amount just in one series,” Mr Sorabjee said.

Not budging from its stated stand, Taj India’s counsel said, “The proposal is not acceptable to us as it will ruin our business. But we are ready to share the signals free of cost with DD only in remote low cable connectivity areas through its 200 low power transmitters in public interest.”

Some other revenue-sharing proposals based on showing advertisements of both DD and Ten Sports were also turned down by Taj’s counsel, contending that under its contractual liabilities, it was not “feasible”.

Mr Sibal said there was technical difficulty in providing the “simulcast (simultaneous telecast)” signals to the local distributor Modi Entertainment, which would be providing it to cable operators for distribution to homes because Ten Sports was a pay channel and DD free to air.

Mr Sibal told the Bench that Taj TV had agreed to share the Karachi match telecast with DD on Saturday as a “gesture” following an undertaking given to the court though there was no direction from it.

Both Mr Sibal and Mr Harish Salve, who appeared for Modi Entertainment, the Indian distributor for Ten Sports, said their clients who had contractual liabilities worth several crores would suffer heavy financial losses if signals were made available to the DD in cable connectivity areas like metro cities and big towns as the cable operators would prefer to distribute its signals because they were “free to air” instead of Ten Sports, a pay channel.

While Mr Salve said Modi was obliged to pay Rs 110 crore or 70 per cent of revenue generated on distribution of signals to Ten Sports’ owner, Mr Sibal said the cost for it to share the signal with DD would be nearly Rs 208 crore for one match.

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