The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Truce talks fail, cable homes miss Sachin feat

Calcutta, Dec. 11: Calcuttans missed a slice of cricket history today as multi-system operators and broadcaster ESPN STAR Sports fought over dues.

Sachin Tendulkar equalled Sunil Gavaskar's 34 Test centuries in Dhaka and remained unbeaten at the end of the day, but viewers fed by Indian Cable Net (formerly RPG Netcom) and Manthan lost out on all the action.

The administration did move in to clear the chaos, as promised by principal secretary Arun Bhattacharya yesterday, but it proved too little too late.

Officials of ESPN STAR Sports, Indian Cable Net and Manthan were summoned to Lalbazar by detective department deputy commissioner Peeyush Pandey in the afternoon. But after a meeting that continued late into the night, no resolution could be reached.

As it broke off, the possibility of a continuing blackout of the sports channels appeared. After Anil Kumble's feat yesterday and Sachin's today, the city could thus miss more records and a likely Indian win.

A police officer present at the meeting said: 'The parties differed on some technical points of a memorandum of understanding they were asked to sign by the administration.'

The broadcasters were told to restore signal to the networks and then negotiate the terms of settlement. 'But they seemed to be in no mood to compromise,' the official said.

ESPN STAR Sports, too, made it clear that it would not settle for a temporary solution. 'Though the administration has stepped in, a comprehensive solution and not a stop-gap one has to be worked out,' said Sricharan Iyengar, the vice-president, sales and marketing, of ESPN STAR Sports.

Earlier in the day, the Sachin-Sourav Ganguly partnership triggered a sharp rise in piracy across the city. 'We are aware that signals were stolen in some places,' said Iyengar. 'Our anti-piracy unit did make checks and conduct raids. We can reveal the details in a day or two.' Talks failing means tomorrow may again see large-scale stealing of signals.

ESPN STAR Sports had switched off Indian Cable Net, which allegedly ran up dues of over Rs 4 crore. Manthan subsequently blocked the sports bouquet on its network in a show of solidarity.

ESPN STAR Sports then switched off Manthan , claiming that the multi-system operator was 'deceiving the public by not showing the channels'.

Viewers missing out on tennis and soccer action ' the ATP Masters Cup and the Champions League for instance ' seemed to have little effect on the two multi-system operators and the administration during the first few days of the switchoff.

When cricket featuring Team India was at stake, the state administration woke up and decided to dive in.

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