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Facts:-

The BCCI is having the monopoly over the telecast of live telecasting of Cricket matches in our country. It had given out the license for telecasting of cricketing events to Star India Pvt. Ltd. Star India Pvt. Ltd. had engaged ESPN Software Pvt. Ltd. to distribute the telecasting of cricketing events in the country to its cable subscribers. Under Section 3 of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007, both these companies are obliged to share the live broadcasting signals of sporting events of national importance with the Prasar Bharati (which owns Doordarshan’s channels/networks) for retransmission of the same through its terrestrial and Direct-to-Home networks.[1]

The Issue raised in this case was

Whether Prasar Bharati has the right to retransmit the telecast to other private cable operators and diminish the rights of BCCI, Star India Pvt. Ltd. and ESPN Software Pvt. Ltd..

Judgment:-

In the judgment, the court considered duties of Prasar Bharati and the Sports Act of 2007.  Under Section 12 of the Prasar Bharati Act the primary duty of the Corporation is to organize and conduct public broadcasting services to inform, educate and entertain the public and to ensure a balanced development of broadcasting on radio and television.[2] Section 12(2)(e) of the Prasar Bharati Act, 1990 clearly stipulates 12 that Prasar Bharati shall, inter alia, be guided by the objective of “providing adequate coverage to sports and games so as to encourage healthy competition and the spirit of sportsmanship.”[3]

Therefore, it seems that one of the primary objectives behind the incorporation and establishment of Prasar Bharati is to give an adequate coverage to games and sports for the above purpose(s).

The preamble of Sports Act of 2007 makes it clear that it was enacted “to provide access to the largest number of listeners and viewers, on a free to air basis, of sporting events of national importance through mandatory sharing of sports broadcasting signals with Prasar Bharati and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”[4] Section 3 of the Sports Act of 2007 discusses on the right of Prasar Bharati to obtain the telecasting signals from the cable operators and retransmit them:-

“3. Mandatory sharing of certain sports broadcasting signals.-

(1) No content rights owner or holder and no television or radio broadcasting service provider shall carry a live television broadcast on any cable or Direct-to-Home network or radio commentary broadcast in India of sporting events of national importance, unless it simultaneously shares the live broadcasting signal, without its advertisements, with the Prasar Bharati to enable them to re-transmit the same on its terrestrial networks and 19 Direct-to-Home networks in such manner and on such terms and conditions as may be specified.”

Nevertheless, this does not give them any rights to retransmit it to private operators other than its own terrestrial and DTH operators. It is for this reason that the court dismissed the appeal and held that:-

“31. On the basis of the above discussions, we, therefore, come to the conclusion that under Section 3 of the Sports Act, 2007 the live feed received by Prasar Bharati from content rights owners or holders is only for the purpose of re-transmission of the said 40 signals on its own terrestrial and DTH networks and not to Cable Operators so as to enable the Cable TV operators to reach such consumers who have already subscribed to a cable network.”[5]

Learning Outcome:-

Prasar Bharati cannot retransmit the live telecasting signals to private operators and trample upon the rights of BCCI and their revenue from the same.

[1] Union of India Vs. Board of Control for Cricket in India & Ors. Civil Appeal No.(S) 10732-10733 of 2017 arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) Nos.4574-4575 of 2015.

[2] Union of India Vs. Board of Control for Cricket in India & Ors. Civil Appeal No.(S) 10732-10733 of 2017 arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) Nos.4574-4575 of 2015.

[3] Section 12(2)(e) of the Prasar Bharati Act, 1990; Union of India Vs. Board of Control for Cricket in India & Ors. Civil Appeal No.(S) 10732-10733 of 2017 arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) Nos.4574-4575 of 2015.

[4] Sports Act of 2007.

[5] Union of India Vs. Board of Control for Cricket in India & Ors. Civil Appeal No.(S) 10732-10733 of 2017 arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) Nos.4574-4575 of 2015.

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