Round 2 of the legal battle over the cricket telecast rights has been set rolling. Peeved at the turn of events in the Bombay High Court on Tuesday, Zee Telefilms on Wednesday filed a petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution, challenging the cancellation of the telecast contract by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). At the same time, in a late-night communication to exchange4media, the Zee camp dared ESPN to go ahead with its threat to file a defamation suit against its Chairman Subhash Chandra.
Ashish Kaul, Vice-president, Corporate Brand Development, Zee Telefims, said, “We have not received any communication from ESPN regarding an apology. If they do go to court, we will provide enough information in the court to prove a nexus between BCCI and ESPN.”
This was in reaction to a statement released earlier in the evening by ESPN STAR Sports demanding an unqualified apology from Zee Telefilms and Subhash Chandra for the “irresponsible statements made to the media alleging collusion between the BCCI and ESPN STAR Sports in the matter of the cricket rights”, failing which it threatened to take “legal action for defamation and slander”.
When contacted by exchange4media, R Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN Software India, had said, “We are totally shocked by Subhash Chandra’s allegation of ESPN colluding with BCCI. This is an absolutely baseless charge and tarnishes our image. We demand an apology from him, failing which we will be forced to take necessary legal action.”
Has the BCCI bitten off more than it can chew? When the hearing in the Supreme Court begins – likely from Friday, September 24 – the shrewd BCCI boss Jagmohan Dalmiya may be hard pressed to justify the decision to cancel the bidding process after personally announcing in Chennai on September 5 that Zee Telefilms is the winner of the telecast rights for the next four years on the strength of it being the highest bidder at $ 308 million. Zee had even deposited the initial $ 20 million demanded by BCCI.
From all indications, the mother of all programme acquisition battles seems set for a protracted battle in the Supreme Court, while the actual telecast remains a no-show.