The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices to the government and public broadcaster Prasar Bharati on an ESPN STAR Sports plea to restrain them from penalising the channel if it stops sharing with Doordarshan its exclusive feed of the India-South Africa cricket matches.
Issuing notices to the government, the information and broadcasting ministry, and Prasar Bharati, a bench of judges Ashok Bhan and Dalveer Bhandari sought their replies to the plea by January 6. The bench decided to take up the next hearing of the case January 8.
In its petition ESPN STAR said it had obtained exclusive rights for the telecast of the ongoing cricket series. But as per the November 2005 guidelines issued by the government, it would be forced to feed its signals to Doordarshan as well.
The private channel apprehended that the government would penalise it by invoking provisions under the downlinking guidelines if it stopped sharing the live signals with Doordarshan.
The petitioner said that Prasar Bharati had requested it to share feed with Doordarshan's terrestrial channel and proposed to share revenue in the ratio of 75:25.
ESPN STAR said it was willing to share only its 'dirty feed' - the signal along with its advertisements and logo - with the public broadcaster for a cost of Rs.35 million for one-day international matches as it would entail loss of its own subscription revenue.
Prasar Bharati, however, refused the offer, said the private channel, alleging that the public broadcaster only wanted to make money "and was not really interested in whether the public was able to watch cricket matches."
The sports channel also sought quashing of the ministry's Nov 11, 2005 guidelines on the downlinking policy, which makes it mandatory for all private sports channels to share broadcasting rights of national and international sporting events, held in India or abroad, with Doordarshan.