Scatmag.com

September 2017

DD CANNOT SHARE LIVE SPORTS EVENTS


The Supreme Court Has Ruled That Doordarshan Cannot Share Its Live Sports Feed For Carriage On Cable TV & DTH Platforms.


23 Aug 2017, the Supreme Court issued a significant judgement curtailing the share of live sports feed, that Doordarshan must compulsorily receive.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Prasar Bharati can air the live feed of sporting events of national importance that it gets free from private sports broadcasters only on its terrestrial network & its own FreeDish DTH platform.

Typically, Doordarshan carries sports feeds on its DD National channel which is a "Must carry" channel for all Cable TV networks and DTH platforms. As a result, viewers of not only DD terrestrial and FreeDish, but of all Cable TV & DTH platforms also receive a fee live feed of all designated 'Sporting Events of National Importance.'


CHALLENGED BY STAR

Star India, had gone to court against DD's practice of universally sharing its sports feed.

Star India contended that sharing of live sports feeds with cable operators & DTH platforms, through Doordarshan had resulted in a subscription loss of ₹ 970 crore and a loss of advertising revenue to the extent of ₹ 245 crore since 2007.

Private sector sports broadcasters who pay astronomical amounts to bid for these live event rights will see the judgement as a major victory, in their favour. Star India had paid ₹ 3,851 crore for the rights to broadcast BCCI's cricket matches between 2012 and 2018, which are shared with DD.

The Supreme Court's ruling is also likely to raise the bid amounts for these Sport event rights.







THE ARGUMENTS

Star India, arguments included the following points that were upheld by the Supreme Court.

Consumers have no incentive to pay subscription fee for these sporting events as it is available free to them courtesy DD National, which has to be mandatorily carried by all cable and DTH platforms.

Section 3 of the Sports Act, 2007 is expropriatory in nature as it curtails or abridges the rights of a content rights owner.

Sharing of revenue between the content rights owner or holder and Prasar Bharati would hardly redeem the situation to take the Sports Act, 2007 out of the category of expropriatory legislation, it added.

Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi appeared for the Union of India and Prasar Bharati, Harish Salve, P Chidambaram, Sanjay Hegde, AM Singhvi, Sudhir Chandra and Gopal Jain appeared for Star India, Dr Rajeev Dhavan appeared for Home Cable Network and Sopan Foundation, while Amit Sibal argued on behalf of the BCCI.


THE JUDGEMENT

On 23 August 2017, the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Navin Sinha upheld the order passed by Delhi High Court on 4 February 2015, by ruling that live feed received by Prasar Bharati from content rights owners or holders is only for the purpose of re-transmission of the signals on its terrestrial network and own DTH platform and not to private cable operators.

The Delhi HC's earlier order had ruled that the live broadcasting signal shared by Star with Prasar Bharati (as per Section 3 of the Sports Act) could not be carried in the designated Doordarshan channels which are under a 'Must-Carry' obligation.

The Supreme Court's judgment stated "The judgement and order dated 4 February 2015 passed by the High Court is affirmed."



ACTION BY GOVT

Implementation of the judgement will require changes by Doordarshan.

Doordarshan may have to launch a separate channel to carry the Live Sports feed on its FreeDish platform. This new channel would not be permitted to be retransmitted by Cable TV networks or DTH platforms.

Alternately, the government may alter the law prohibiting the carriage of DD National; only during telecast of these sports events; by Cable TV networks & DTH platforms. Some observers argue that implementation of this may not be easy or enforceable, and that DD could alternately remove DD National from the list of 'Must Carry' channels n