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Prasar Bharati most likely to challenge Delhi HC order on Cricket World Cup feed sharing

MUMBAI: Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati is most likely to move the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order restraining it from sharing live broadcasting signal of events of national importance like the cricket World Cup with cable operators and direct-to-home (DTH) service providers.

A senior counsel involved in the matter confirmed to TelevisionPost.com that the matter is most likely to reach the apex court. “It is only a question of when we decide to move the court,” he said.

Considering that the World Cup will kick-off on 14 February, the pubcaster will have to rush to the Supreme Court.

“It’s a given that the matter will be challenged in the Supreme Court,” the counsel said, adding that the order was difficult to implement due to inherent contradictions in it.

Talking about the contradictions, he pointed out that while on the one hand cable TV operators have to mandatorily carry all Doordarshan channels on their platform in digital addressable system (DAS) areas, on the other hand the HC has directed that they cannot carry DD channels airing the World Cup feed.

When contacted, Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar refused to reveal the pubcaster’s next course of action. He, however, stated that the Prasar Bharati board has given the go ahead to take the best possible action.

“I am yet to look at the order copy. My lawyers are already studying it. So tomorrow or day after tomorrow we will see what can be done. We took it up with the Prasar Bharati board and we got an approval to take the best possible action,” Sircar told TelevisionPost.com.

Some multi-system operators (MSOs) are also weighing their options. They earlier had the option of showing the India matches on Doordarshan. They would use this as a tool to negotiate on subscription fee payouts to private broadcaster and World Cup telecast rights holder Star India.

The small cable TV operators will be hit hard by the order as they now have no option but to compulsorily subscribe to Star Sports channels.

Among the DTH operators, it is Sun Direct which will be impacted as it carries channels, including Star Sports, on RIO (Reference Interconnect Offer) basis.

On Wednesday, the bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva 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 towards 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.

Also read:

Cricket World Cup feed on DD cannot be carried via cable ops: Delhi HC