HC hears ESPN's petition on telecast rights

Published: Friday, September 17, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:The Bombay High Court, while hearing on the ESPN-Star Sport's petition challenging Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) awarding cricket telecast rights to Zee Telefims Ltd, on Friday observed that if the conditions of the tender were strictly adhered to, then both Zee Telefims Ltd and ESPN-Star Sports would not be qualified to bag the rights.

The Court told Zee Telefilm Ltd's counsel Harish Salve "if we strictly stick to your line of argument then both the parties (Zee Telefims Ltd and ESPN Star Sports) would be ineligible."

The observation came when Salve was arguing ESPN-Star Sports' contention that Zee Telefilms Ltd did not have the required experience and it did not own "production facilities" required for the live telecast of cricket matches.

He pointed out that ESPN-Star Sports just hired the production units and said going by the records submitted, in the last two years, ESPN-Star Sports has produced only one series exclusively and that also did not fulfill the required "minimum two years of experience criteria".

Salve told Court that like ESPN-Star Sports, even Zee Telefilms would hire "specialist" production professionals and equipments thereby submitting that the criterion on which ESPN-Star Sports was deeming Zee Telefilms Ltd as ineligible was incorrect.

After the court's observation, however, Salve said that in case of strict adherence to tender conditions, none of the parties including Prasar Bharti would be eligible to get the telecast rights as all of them are merely licensee's and hire production units to telecast matches.

The BCCI asked time for arguments and the Court told the Board to put forward its submissions on Monday when the BCCI counsel K K Venugopal is expected to address the Court.

The petition has been filed by Espn-Star Sports challenging BCCI's decision to award the $308 million contract to Zee Telefilms Ltd for telecast rights of cricket matches to be played between October 2004 and September 2008.

The Court, last week, had sought Zee Telefims decision on whether it would go for a fresh bid, which was turned down by the entertainment major.

The Court is yet to look into the maintainability of the writ and the arguments will continue on Saturday. The court has also to decide on allowing intervention application of SAB TV, which was moved on Thursday.

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