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Board promises telecast, Zee goes to court
- ESPN threatens legal action over nexus slur

Sept. 22: India's cricket board today said it was making arrangements on its own to telecast next month's Test series with Australia as the dispute over TV rights reached the Supreme Court and ESPN-STAR Sports threatened legal action against rival Zee.

'The board is making all the necessary arrangements for the India-Australia series,' BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya told a news conference in Calcutta, but refused to say if he was in touch with Doordarshan or private production companies.

A Prasar Bharati official said DD has not yet heard from the board regarding the series.

Dalmiya's comment came on a day of high-voltage drama that saw Zee Telefilms move the apex court against the BCCI's decision to cancel the bidding process. Zee requested the court to set aside the decision and sought an order restraining the board from awarding the rights to any other channel before the dispute is resolved.

The Union of India, the BCCI, its president, secretary, ESPN-STAR Sports and the consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers have been made respondents. Anticipating Zee's move, the BCCI had already filed a caveat. Zee said it has paid the board $20 million of the promised amount of $308 million it has offered for telecast rights to all matches played in the country over the next four years. It said $20 million was enough to cover the rights of the Australia series, which begins on October 6 and is the immediate bone of contention.

The petition said the BCCI was colluding with ESPN over the deal, which was apparent from the way the sports channel withdrew its case after the BCCI cancelled its bid yesterday. 'The matter comes up for mention and listing tomorrow and for hearing on Friday,' a Zee spokesperson said.

Dalmiya said the board had placed several options before Bombay High Court. These included the court awarding the rights to the highest bidder after revised bids. The BCCI also suggested breaking up the contract into two by taking out the Australia series, the South Africa (November-December 2004) matches and a jubilee face-off with Pakistan on November 13 and awarding the rights for four years from May 2005.

Another option was permitting the BCCI to produce the three series on its own. 'Since none of the options was acceptable to the parties, we had to cancel the tender to save face,' Dalmiya said.

Dalmiya also presented copies of the BCCI's correspondence with the International Cricket Council on whether it was possible to conduct the India-Australia series without TV coverage, to which the ICC said no.

He refused to react to the accusations of Zee chief Subhash Chandra yesterday that he was 'colluding and conspiring' with ESPN-STAR Sports. 'My upbringing and dignity does not permit me to join such issues,' he said.

The sports bouquet, however, threatened legal action if Zee did not come up with an 'unqualified public apology' for making 'baseless allegations'.

A Zee spokesperson shrugged off the threat. 'If they have to go to court, they can do so,' the spokesperson said. 'We can provide enough information in court that there is a clear nexus.'

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