The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Aussie bouncer in TV tussle

Mumbai/Calcutta, Sept. 20: Cricket authorities added new urgency to a settlement of the telecast dispute, saying the Australian team's tour of India itself had come under threat from the lingering controversy.

The counsel for the Board of Control for Cricket in India read out from a letter written by the Australian Cricket Board that said it would be difficult to play the series without live telecast.

Ricky Ponting's team is scheduled to play its first Test from October 6. But the award of broadcast rights has got bogged down in a court case between two channels, Zee Telefilms and ESPN-STAR Sports.

ESPN challenged the BCCI's decision to declare Zee the winner of the contract to show all matches played in India for four years starting October.

In the context of the Australian letter, suggesting a second look at the tour, the BCCI counsel told Bombay High Court that it could be forced to reopen the bids if the dispute was not resolved soon.

In the case of fresh bidding, all broadcasters ' and not Zee and ESPN alone ' would be eligible to compete. Board counsel K.K. Venugopal said the tender gave the BCCI the right to cancel the bidding process.

The BCCI also said the clause (3.2) on telecast experience of international matches and possessing production capacity might be done away with and the winner chosen only on the basis of the price quoted.

Under the clause, a bidder has to provide details of existing in-house infrastructure for production and telecast. It also has to prove having produced and telecast international cricket events in the last two calendar years.

Other than alleging that the board had violated its own tender condition, ESPN has argued that Zee does not meet these eligibility criteria.

Zee was the highest bidder initially with $260 million but the quote was later revised by ESPN to $308 million which was matched by Zee. The BCCI had not actually handed Zee the rights but said it was the highest bidder.

Officially, Zee would only say it would continue its arguments when the hearing resumes tomorrow. But the network does not see an immediate possibility of fresh bidding.

Some analysts were, however, not so sure about the court not agreeing to a rebid. 'The court has suggested a rebid once. What can stop it from ordering it this time' asked an analyst.

When the case came to court, the judges had suggested fresh bidding but Zee had declined.

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