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PrasarBharati Granted the Right to Telecast CWC15 India Matches; Star TV Demands a Separate channel

In what may be a decisive setback for Star TV, the Supreme Court on Tuesday granted permission to PrasarBharati to continue broadcasting the live of feed of India’s world cup matches on DD National. The rights to the live feed of World Cup matches currently vests with Star TV.  Further, the Court has asked PrasarBharati to reply to a suggestion given by Star TV that a separate channel be created in the same manner as the one created for the broadcast of Glasgow Commonwealth Games, so that live feed of cricket matches provided by Star TV to PrasarBharati can be carried by it.

In an earlier interim order the Court had granted a stay on the Delhi High Court order of February 4th, 2014 which barred PrasarBharati via Doordarshan from providing the live feed of the ICC Cricket World Cup Matches shared with it by Star TV, to cable operators.  The Supreme Court bench of Justices RanjanGogoi and Pinaki Chandra Ghose also directed Star TV to state the total loss of advertisement revenue due to the relay of its live feed to cable operators by PrasarBharati via Doordarshan. Another hearing has been scheduled for Thursday.

Earlier, Attorney General MukulRohatgi had argued that Star TV was mandated to share the live feed of World Cup matches involving India along with semi-finals and final matches with PrasarBharati. This mandate is provided under Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with PrasarBharati) Act, 2007 and the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. The sharing of live feed by private broadcasting services with Doordarshan is a matter of public interest and national importance. PrasarBharati is statutorily entitled to relay the live feed to cable operators, the AG argued.

Senior counsel, P. Chidambaram further argued that Star TV is not averse to sharing the live feed with PrasarBharati for Direct to Home subscribers. The only opposition is with the relaying of live feed to cable operators and set top box subscribers. Thereafter, P. Chidambaram requested that if Doordarshan could launch a new channel for the nine matches it has requested the feed for, there would be no need to share the feed with the cable operators, hence cutting down the loss of subscription revenue to the private broadcasters.

However, immediately responding to the suggestion of creating a separate channel for broadcasting the live feed, the Attorney General opined that there can be no interfering with the provisions of the statute by the High Court as the particular matter is of absolute stay. Even though the move to create a separate channel, could save Star TV may be 40 to 45 crores, it would not be possible to do so because it would not be feasible. Also, AG said that the existing deal and dispute has been continuing since 2007 and there is no reason to change the status quo as it is only a matter of a few matches.

Earlier, the Attorney General had pointed out that PrasarBharati was vested with the right to demand the sharing on live feed under a 75:25 revenue sharing provision, with Star TV under which PrasarBharati allots 75 % of the advertisement revenue collected by it to PrasarBharati. However, P Chidambaram countered by saying that sharing the feed with private cable operators causes it a considerable loss of revenue and the action is akin to benefitting a private operator at the cost of another private operator, and not really a matter of national importance.

The Supreme Court has asked PrasarBharati to consider the possibility of creating a channel and revert back to the Court with the particulars and feasibility report on Thursday. Meanwhile, Star TV has been asked to estimate the total extent of its loss.

by Siddhartha Singh.