Our Legal Correspondent

Chennai, Feb. 9

ZEE Telefilms on Wednesday got a breather from the Madras High Court which directed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) not to finalise any tender or contract for telecast of the forthcoming Indo-Pak cricket series till February 17.

Zee TV, in its petition, contended that the BCCI having awarded to it the contract for telecast of the various matches in India to be played in March-April, had by a communication dated September 21, 2004, informed the cancellation of the contract.

Zee submitted that among the bidders, its bid was the highest at $260 million (Rs 1,260 crore) with the ESPN/Star Sports being the second with $230 million. Zee said it had also paid $20 million as advance to the BCCI.

Mr Justice K.P. Sivasubramaniam, who heard the preliminary submissions by counsels of both sides, adjourned the case to February 17. He asked the first respondent (BCCI) not to finalise the bid or contract till then. The respondents were directed to file their counters by February 14.

The BCCI, according to the petitioner, had invited tenders for telecast of cricket matches in India for the period October 1, 2004 to September 30, 2008. In response, the petitioner had submitted its tender on August 14, 2004. Having bid for the highest amount, the tender was awarded to the petitioner. Subsequently, however, the BCCI communicated the cancellation of the contract "on reasons and grounds" that were "frivolous", the petitioner said.

From media reports, the petitioner said it had learnt that even when the BCCI had decided to award the contract in its favour, the cricket board was reported to be negotiating with all other sports channels whose bids were lower than those of the petitioner, to cover the Indo-Pak series. The petitioner was ready to cover the forthcoming series and was also willing to deposit the entire advertisement revenue before this court. The petitioner prayed that to protect its interest and that of the viewers, the court might issue appropriate orders for telecast of the series.

The petitioner also prayed for issue of an interim injunction restraining the BCCI from permitting coverage of cricket matches in India, by other than the Prasar Bharati, which allowed free-to-air broadcast, on the basis of signals to be provided by the petitioner.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 10, 2005)
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