The Supreme Court today sought response from Prasar Bharati on whether it was willing to share Ten Sports’ feed of the Indo-Pak cricket series without any alteration.
A Bench headed by Ashok Bhan posted the matter for further hearing tomorrow, and asked Solicitor-General GE Vahanvati to take instructions from Prasar Bharati on the issue.
Ten Sports, the exclusive telecast right holder for the coming Indo-Pak cricket series, had moved the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the government guidelines which make it mandatory for the sports channels to share feed of sporting events of national importance with Prasar Bharati.
The petition filed by Taj Television Ltd, owner of Ten Sports, has termed the guideline as arbitrary without the authority of the law. Prasar Bharati has already filed a caveat to pre-empt Ten Sports from taking any ex-parte interim order against the high court order.
The sports channel has challenged the Bombay High Court order refusing it any relief by which it has been compelled to share the live feed of the series commencing from January 13.
The Dubai-based TV channel has contended that the Centre cannot take away its right which was acquired in the foreign country.
The guidelines state that sports channels will share their feed with Prasar Bharati for "national and international sporting events of national importance" in India or abroad.
In case of cricket matches, it will include all matches involving India. More importantly, in case of cricket, guidelines are to operate retrospectively, that is covering events for which broadcasting rights have been already bought.
Terming it as malafide exercise of power by the information and broadcasting ministry for making money at the cost of private channels, Ten Sports said it only has the exclusive right to decide with whom it wants to share the feed and in India it has chosen the cable operators. The private channel said the offer of Rs 20 crore for sharing the signals without its own advertisement was not acceptable to it as Prasar Bharati wanted to generate revenue at its cost.
Senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for the sports channel said the company had already entered into agreement with the cable operators and if Prasar Bharati would offer signals, they would move towards Doordarshan.
The solicitor general, however, said if Prasar Bharati would not get the live feed several millions of cricket lovers would be deprived of the series in small towns and villages.
Salve said around Rs 140 crore advertising revenue was at stake for Ten Sports.
The Bench even sought to know from Prasar Bharati whether it was willing to deposit Rs 25 crore or any amount fixed by the court for sharing signals of private channel. Ten Sports, which had bought exclusive telecast rights for the upcoming series from pakistan cricket board two years ago, has contended that it has already sold 90 per cent of advertising spots for the series.
It argued that if it was to share the feed with Prasar Bharati, it would amount to breach of contract with advertisers, as they had presumed that Ten Sports would exclusively telecast the matches.
Ten Sports also argued that if Doordarshan was to broadcast the series, cable operators would refuse to buy decoders from Ten Sports, causing immense loss of revenue.