ESPN, Star made party in plea against sharing sports telecast

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has allowed the plea of Star India Pvt Ltd and its sister concern ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd to be made party in a case dealing with implementation of a law which provides for mandatory sharing of feed of cricket matches held in India with Prasar Bharati.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Vibhu Bakhru allowed the plea of the two channels, which have claimed that BCCI and Nimbus Communications Ltd`s appeal against an order of the high court relating to the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, "vitally affects" them also.

ESPN and Star in their application have submitted that the contract to air cricket matches organised by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in the country has been awarded exclusively to them from 2012 to 2018 at a cost of Rs 3,851 crore and outcome of the appeal would "vitally" affect them.

The two channels said BCCI`s appeal was filed on the ground that the single-judge bench of the high court, while refusing to direct Prasar Bharati to encrypt its signal, as had been sought, had not dealt with the substantive issue of copyright infringement of cable TV channels.

"I am seeking an impleadment in the writ petition of 2007 as I am being vitally affected. I have been kept in the same shoes as Nimbus, who was earlier the exclusive broadcaster of BCCI. After a dispute, contract with Nimbus was terminated and we won the contract," the lawyer said.

BCCI opposed the impleadment application saying if the two channels want to be heard, they may file a separate plea.
The bench, however, allowed the plea saying, "If they (ESPN and Star) have been kept in same shoes as Nimbus, which is already an appellant, what is the harm in impleading them. Application is allowed."

The Sports Broadcasting Signals Act makes it mandatory for cable TV channels to simultaneously share with Prasar Bharati the live feed of all sporting events of national importance, so that the state-run enterprise can telecast the events on its network for the benefit of those viewers who do not have access to cable TV channels.


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