The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Zee & ESPN spar, DD pads up

Calcutta, Sept. 14: Telecast of Australia's tour of India next month was thrown into uncertainty after Zee Telefilms' decision today to not go in for fresh bidding for the rights.

'The board of directors in their meeting on September 13 firmly decided against re-bidding,' said a press statement issued by the channel.

Zee made its decision known to Bombay High Court, which had suggested fresh bidding. It means the case earlier filed by rival ESPN-STAR Sports against the cricket board's decision to grant telecast rights to Zee for matches played in India for the next four years will resume ' the hearing is on Thursday. Whatever the verdict of the court, it is likely that the aggrieved party will head to the Supreme Court, making the chances of the dispute being settled before October 6, when the first Test begins, remote.

'I received information from our lawyers that Zee has decided not to submit fresh bids,' Jagmohan Dalmiya, the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said.

'Since the time frame for the legal case cannot be predicted, we are seriously concerned about the fate of the Australia series,' he said.

India may be 'fined or even suspended by the International Cricket Council' if it fails to provide video footage to the third umpire, as is mandatory under the rules.

The BCCI has called an emergency working committee meeting in Calcutta on Thursday at 2 pm to discuss what is looking like a crisis and settle on a possible backup for the telecast.

Will it be national broadcaster Doordarshan' 'That decision can only be made at Thursday's meeting,' Dalmiya said.

K.S. Sarma, the head of Prasar Bharati, which runs DD, said: 'We are fully prepared to show it by ourselves. There's no word from the BCCI but we're getting feelers that they might approach us in a day or two.'

'In case that happens, we will be able to negotiate the terms and conditions,' he added.

Such an ending would be tragic for the disputants in the case, Zee and ESPN, since the India-Australia series is the star of the four-year calendar that starts ticking in October.

With a temporary telecast arrangement made with a third broadcaster, the value of the contract may drop sharply ' as of now both sides have quoted a price of $308 million. In that situation, fresh bids may be called after the series.

Commenting on such a possibility, Dalmiya said: 'That's a million-dollar question which I am also worried about and have no answer to.'

Earlier in the day, Zee Telefilms also conveyed its decision to not submit fresh bids to the parties involved in the case, as directed by the court. 'We served a petition to all parties informing them of our decision not to go for fresh bids,' said a Zee spokesperson.

An affidavit was also filed each by the Union government and the BCCI in the high court, responding to ESPN's petition questioning the BCCI's decision to award the rights to Zee.

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