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Prasar Bharati moves SC against Delhi HC order on Cricket World Cup feed sharing

MUMBAI: Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has moved the Supreme Court against Delhi High Court’s order barring Doordarshan from carrying ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 feed on cable TV platforms.

The petition was filed today while the matter will come up for hearing tomorrow at 2 pm before the bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Pinaki Chandra Ghose.

In its petition, the pubcaster has contended that the Delhi HC order is virtually unworkable and is contrary to Section 3 of Sports Act and Section 8 of the Cable TV Networks Act.

According to Section 3 of Sports Act, Doordarshan has to carry the feed of sporting events of national interest like the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 on its terrestrial channel while those very channels have to be carried by cable operators under Section 8 of the Cable TV Networks Act.

The Delhi HC in its order dated 5 February stated that Prasar Bharati should carry the feed on a channel that is not carried by cable TV operators. However, there is no such DD channel that is not carried on cable TV platforms particularly in digital addressable system (DAS) areas.

Reacting to the Delhi High Court order, Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar had told “The Delhi High Court order is difficult to implement because I have to reach hundreds of thousands of terrestrial through the satellite. The High Court is telling me to take a pound of flesh and not have any blood spilled, which is impossible.”

The order was a shot in the arm for official broadcaster Star India as it will now be able to realise the full potential of monetising the property.

On the other hand, the small cable TV operators would be hit hard by the order, as they are now left with no choice but to subscribe to Star Sports channels.

The bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva had passed an order stating that live broadcasting signal under the mandatory sharing act can only be re-transmitted by Prasar Bharati on its own networks; the pubcaster cannot share live broadcasting signal of events of national importance like the cricket World Cup with cable operators.

The bench had agreed with the contention of the petitioners, Star India and BCCI, that the objective of Section 3 of the Sports Act is essentially directed at those citizens who do not have access to cable television and only have access to the terrestrial and DTH platform of Prasar Bharati.

Star had also argued that the mandatory sharing of feed with Prasar Bharati was leading to substantial revenue loss. According to the broadcaster, the sharing of live feed with cable operators through Doordarshan has resulted in a subscription loss of Rs 970 crore (Rs 9.7 billion) and a loss of advertising revenue to the extent of Rs 245 crore (Rs 2.45 billion) since 2007.

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