Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- Supreme Court clears pitch for telecast

Published: Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 19:55 [IST]
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New Delhi:India's Supreme Court Chief Justice stepped in after court hours to clear the way for the broadcast of the first match of Pakistan-India cricket series to millions of Indian homes.

V N Khare called a hearing at his home on Friday regarding the case between Gulf-based TV network Ten Sports and Indian cable operators on the eve of Saturday's opening One-day fixture and ordered the private channel to share the broadcast with the state-run network Doordarshan.

The row had threatened to deprive cricket-crazy Indians of watching live broadcasts of the hotly-anticipated series, which begins on Saturday with the first of five scheduled One-day Internationals in the Southern port city of Karachi.

Hopes of a quick resolution to the wrangle seemed dim earlier in the day after Ten Sports had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against a lower court's order directing it to share the broadcast with Doordarshan.

Kapil Sibal, a lawyer for Ten Sports, said they had volunteered to share the broadcast for the first match despite having exclusive rights in order not to disappoint the cricket fans.

"This was an order on the basis of an undertaking we voluntarily gave because we did not want to deprive people of the pleasure of watching the match," he said.

"I will supply the signal free of cost to Doordarshan and cable operators and enable them all facilities to telecast the match. This will be applicable only until tomorrow," he said.

The Supreme Court will take up a hearing again on Monday and then pass a final order.

The Chennai High Court had asked Doordarshan to pay an unspecified sum to Ten Sports, which has exclusive telecast rights, and broadcast the private operator's logo while showing the matches.

Ten Sports in its appeal to the Supreme Court said that the lower court's order amounted to its "exclusive property rights" being acquired by another in the name of acting in the public interest.

The Dubai-based channel said that it had bought the exclusive rights of telecast for the series through global bidding in 2002 and had no agreement for sharing with Doordarshan.

The case took a further twist as the Indian Government stepped in and asked the Supreme Court to pass a judgement only after hearing all parties to the dispute.

Government sources widely quoted in the Indian media said New Delhi had been planning to introduce an ordinance that would clear the way for the public broadcaster to have rights of broadcast over events of national importance.

The cable war broke out when Ten Sports last week demanded higher cable subscriptions from operators on a par with other sports channels such as ESPN and Star Sports.

The operators, led by Hathway and InCableNet, maintain that Ten Sports is a relatively new channel and does not have a subscriber base to match that of ESPN and Star Sports and therefore should not expect similar subscription rates.

Cable operators beam paid channels such as Ten Sports while Doordarshan's output is free-to-air and covers more than 80 percent of India's television audience.

India last toured Pakistan for a Test series in 1989.

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