Saturday, May 28, 2016

Prasar Bharati must get ad-free feed from private broadcasters, rules SC

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that Prasar Bharati must get ‘clean’ feed — free from all embedded advertisements and commercial elements — from all private broadcasters.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and P C Pant dismissed an appeal filed by broadcaster Star India Ltd against sharing clean feed with Prasar Bharati, which the court said, has the maximum reach.

The bench said that the purposive interpretation of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act mandated that broadcasters were obligated to supply clean feed to the public broadcaster by removing sponsor logos and on-screen credits for telecast on Doordarshan.

The Act and the rules thereunder, said the court, made it amply clear that signals to be shared with Prasar Bharati by the content rights owner or holder are to be the best feed that is provided to the broadcast service provider in India and has to be free from advertisements.

It underlined that when live broadcasting signal with advertisements is shared with Prasar Bharati, those advertisements will have a much larger viewership but the benefit would accrue only to those who have booked the advertisements. Therefore, the court said, “the sharing of the signals has to be without any advertisements and if the advertisements are also to be included in the signals, there has to be sharing of the revenue.”

Star India had approached the apex court against a 2013 Delhi High Court ruling which dismissed an ESPN Software Pvt Ltd plea for a declaration that its responsibility was to share feed received from organisers, which would include advertisements, logos and other on-screen credits during the game.

According to a 2007 rule, private broadcasters such as Star India must share coverage of sports events of national importance with the state-owned Prasar Bharati, without advertisements.

Prasar Bharati had earlier demanded clean feed from Star India. Star India contended that this rule would impact not only cricket but other sporting events like tennis and hockey.

Star India earlier argued that if a Wimbledon match had to be aired in the country whose official sponsor is Rolex SA, the present scheme would require Rolex names to be removed, which was unlikely. At present, Star India holds the rights to broadcast cricket events organised under the International Cricket Council in India.

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