Indian Supreme Court orders Star India and other private broadcasters to provide Prasar Bharati with ad-free feed
Star and earlier ESPN had pleaded that their sole responsibility was to share feed received from organizers including logos and adverts.
According to the Supreme Court ruling that got passed on Friday, Prasar Bharati will get ‘clean’ feed — free from all embedded commercial advertisements and such similar elements— from all private broadcasters. A bench of Justices A K Sikri and P C Pant dismissed an appeal that was previously filed by broadcaster Star India Ltd against sharing ad-free 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 all broadcasters were required 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 under it said the court, amply clarified that the signals shared with Prasar Bharati by the content rights owner(s) must be the best feed provided and also has to be free from all sorts of commercial advertisements.
It has also been underlined that when live broadcasting signals include advertisements in their shared content with Prasar Bharati, those advertisements have a much larger viewership but the profit accrues 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 to be included in the signals, the revenue has to be shared equally.”
Star India had approached the apex court against a 2013 Delhi High Court ruling which dismissed the ESPN Software Pvt Ltd plea for a declaration that its sole responsibility was to share feed received from organizers, which would necessarily include advertisements, logos and other on-screen credits presented 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. Star India contended that this rule would impact not only cricket but other sporting events like tennis and hockey.
Star India had earlier argued that for example, if a Wimbledon match had to be aired whose official sponsor is Rolex SA, the present scheme would require Rolex names to be removed, which was highly unlikely and unacceptable. At present, Star India holds the rights to broadcast cricket events organized under the International Cricket Council (ICC) in India.