The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Prasar Bharati to respond to the suggestion of ESPN and STAR India to start a Doordarshan channel devoted to the ongoing Cricket World Cup, covering nine matches that India plays. It also asked STAR to provide to the court by Thursday the estimate of the loss it would suffer if a Delhi High Court order restricting Doordarshan telecast was followed.
Though Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the idea of a separate channel wasn't technically possible, the bench, headed by judge Ranjan Gogoi, asked Prasar Bharti to examine its technical feasibility by the next hearing. Till Thursday, there will be no bar on Doordarshan telecast. The court is likely to take a decision on the matter before India's next match, scheduled for Sunday.
STAR and ESPN had also sought Doordarshan run a scroll on the screen declaring the feed wasn't for cable operators and action would be taken if there was violation in this regard. This proposal was also objected to by the attorney general.
The court was hearing the appeal of Prasar Bharati against a Delhi High Court order barring Doordashan from sharing with cable operators the live feed received from ESPN and STAR, which have exclusive broadcasting rights to the World Cup. Last week, the court had asked STAR and ESPN to arrive at a compromise to end the seven-year-old recurring dispute over telecasting rights.
However, Rohatgi's response suggested the suggestions weren't acceptable to Prasar Bharati, though it would give a formal reply only on Thursday.
On the complaint that STAR would suffer heavy losses, the attorney general said it was a matter of contract between the parties, adding laws should be followed in this regard. STAR counsel P Chidambaram has estimated the loss at Rs 3,800 crore.
Rohatgi said it was mandatory to provide the feed to cable operators under two laws cited by the high court --- the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007, which mandates a broadcaster to compulsorily share signals of sporting events of national importance with Prasar Bharati; and the Cable Television Networks Act, which make it mandatory for all cable operators to have two Doordarshan channels.