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Cricket board clings to production rights

Calcutta, Sept. 27: India's cricket board today told the Supreme Court it would make arrangements to telecast the series with Australia and South Africa, but did not name any production company, as the dispute over rights headed for a larger bench.

The BCCI's announcement came after a three-judge panel referred to a five-judge bench a petition by Zee Telefilms Ltd that challenged the board's decision to cancel the bidding process.

'We are referring it to a five-judge Constitution bench which is sitting tomorrow,' Justice . Santosh Hegde said.

Justices Hegde, B.P. Singh and S.B. Sinha took note of the important questions of law raised by Zee, which had based its petition on Article 32 of the Constitution that deals with rights to constitutional remedies. The bench also issued notices to the Union government, the BCCI, the sports bouquet and the consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The board told the court that live feed would be given to Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan, for domestic viewers and international telecast rights to 'somebody else'.

'Prasar Bharati will telecast the India-Australia and India-South Africa series domestically and international telecast rights will be given to somebody else,' senior counsel K.K. Venugopal said after the judges asked him to reply to Zee's petition against cancellation of the tender process.

Zee, which had emerged the highest bidder for telecast rights to all matches played in India over the next four years, alleged that the board cancelled the process 'to benefit a particular sports channel'.

The BCCI did not clarify who would produce the series, but sources indicated it would be an 'international production company of repute'. Names doing the rounds include Trans World International and Australia's Channel 9. The sources also said it is unlikely that DD, ESPN-STAR Sports or Zee will be given the chance.

Earlier today, ESPN-STAR Sports had offered to produce the Australia series for BCCI 'as a solution for ending the current impasse'. In a letter to board chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, Rick Dovey, the managing-director of the sports bouquet's Asia operations, proposed that the network undertake the production and telecast of the series.

Dovey said ESPN-STAR Sports would 'pass the net advertising revenue earned' on the two channels, as well as its 'net share of the DD revenue, net of costs' to the BCCI. In other words, all revenues earned after covering production costs. ESPN-STAR Sports also mentioned it has an agreement with Prasar Bharati to carry the telecast on DD.

Late this evening, Prasar Bharati officials said its empowered committee would meet tomorrow to discuss the developments.

'We will take stock of the situation in light of the BCCI's submission before the apex court,' an official said.

The government's nominee to Prasar Bharati would be present at the meeting, which would 'deliberate on all the issues concerned, including revenue share and other arrangements'.

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