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Windies tour: DD hit for a TEN
Not on Doordarshan

May 9: The Supreme Court today ruled in favour of TEN Sports, saying the private channel need not share live feed of the coming India-West Indies cricket series with Doordarshan.

The two-judge bench restrained Prasar Bharati from “interfering” with the Test and the one-day international series for which the sports channel had won “exclusive” broadcast rights.

In effect, what the Supreme Court has done is prevented Prasar Bharati from invoking ' in this case at least ' para 5.2 of the information and broadcasting ministry’s “downlinking guidelines”, which makes it mandatory for a private channel to share live with the public broadcaster a sporting event of “national importance”.

What appeared to go against Doordarshan was its stand that it would not pay TEN Sports anything for sharing the live feed. Some months ago, TEN Sports owner Taj Television and Prasar Bharati had struck a deal on an India-Pakistan series in which the public broadcaster agreed to deposit Rs 15 crore with the court.

This time, the court made it clear that Prasar Bharati will not take any “coercive step” or “action” in pursuance of the November 2005 downlinking guidelines.

The Centre last month came out with a list of several sports events which are of “national importance” and must be shared, with the private channel getting part of the revenue from Doordarshan. But the case of cricket is mentioned in the downlinking guidelines themselves.

The guidelines say that the feed from “all matches” featuring the Indian cricket team must be shared. So must be the broadcast from semi-finals and finals of international cricket competitions, even if India is not playing. And the rules come into effect for deals signed even before the guidelines were issued.

The guidelines stay ' the court did not go into the TEN Sports claim that they were invalid and illegal.

Private channels are reluctant to comment. But their executives argue that the ruling will have a sobering effect on Prasar Bharati.

For, the court has made clear that all matches involving India were of not of the same importance. “Matches of an Indo-Pak series are different from the others,” it said. “For West Indies, many people may not be interested.”

TEN Sports had gone to the apex court after Bombay High Court refused to grant it any relief in December 2005.

The rationale behind the government guidelines is that the public at large should not be deprived of seeing an exciting match because their homes do not happen to get a particular satellite channel.

The information and broadcasting ministry has also argued that several other countries have a similar policy.

Prasar Bharati has reconciled with the ruling. Sources said it may now consider working out a deal with TEN Sports that allows it to broadcast highlights of the series of the five ODIs and four tests, beginning from May 18.

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