Broadcasting; Star Sports Vs. Prasar Bharti [Supreme Court of India, 27 May, 2016]

Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007 – 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.


IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(A.K. SIKRI) AND (PRAFULLA .C. PANT) JJ.

MAY 27, 2016

CIVIL APPEAL NO.5252 OF 2016

(ARISING OUT OF S.L.P. (CIVIL) NO. 8988 OF 2014)

STAR SPORTS INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED …..APPELLANT(S)

VERSUS

PRASAR BHARATI & ORS. …..RESPONDENT(S)

J U D G M E N T

A.K. SIKRI, J.

Leave granted.

2) The instant appeal is filed against the impugned judgment dated October 3, 2013 passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Delhi in W.P.(C) No. 3611 of 2013 which was filed by the appellant herein. The appeal raises the issue regarding the scope of obligations of a Television Broadcasting Organisation under the

Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007

(hereinafter referred to as “Sports Act”). We may mention at the outset that under Section 3 of the Sports Act, a Television Broadcasting Organisation is prohibited from carrying the live television broadcast of a sporting event of national importance on cable or Direct-to-Home (DTH) networks in India, unless it simultaneously shares the live broadcasting signals, without its advertisements, with the Prasar Bharati (respondent No.1) to enable it to retransmit the same on its terrestrial and DTH network.

3) In view of the above statutory obligation, the appellant herein sharing the live broadcast signals with respodnent No.1 Prasar Bharati and there is no dispute about the same. The appellant, as a television broadcaster, is allowed to insert advertisements on its avenue and recoup its advertisements during a break in live play at various points during broadcast, such as, during breaks between overs in a cricket match, at the fall of a wicket, during drink breaks etc. These advertisements are not included while sharing the live broadcasting signals with Prasar Bharati. No dispute about this as well.

4) The problem has, however, arisen in respect of the contents shared with Prasar Bharati which, at times, include some kind of advertisements. According to the appellant, the broadcast signal of a sporting event provided by an event organiser, known as the “world feed” (as the same feed is provided to all broadcasters the world over), includes the broadcast of the live play of the event as it happens on the field as also certain “features” which enhance a view’s experience, such a Hawk-eye, ball delivery speed reference, umpire naming graphics, player statistics, score cards, match summary graphics, replay graphics etc. These features are inserted at the site by or at the instance of the event organiser. Such features invariably contain logos of the event sponsors known as “On-Screen Credits” in industry parlance. These “On-Screen Credits” are, however, included while sharing the live broadcasting signals with Prasar Bharati. Prasar Bharati has taken exception to the aforesaid inclusion treating the same as “advertisements” and, thus, turning it as violative of Section 3(1) of the Sports Act. The appellant, on the other hand, has taken the position that in terms of Section 3(1) of the Sports Act, the obligation of a television Broadcaster, i.e., the appellant, is limited to sharing of the world feed which it receives from the event organizer/owner on as as-is-where-is basis without advertisements of the television broadcaster, and that the appellant is not obliged to remove any On-Screen Credits inserted by the event organizer. The appellant contested the stand of Prasar Bharati (respondent No.1) that it is the duty of the appellant to ensure that the sponsor logos/On-Screen Credits present ion the world feed, which ios created by or at the instance of the organizer of the event, have to also be removed by the appellant.

5) By the impugned judgment, the High Court has found favour with the contention raised by Prasar Bharati and this view of the High Court is the subject matter of challenge in the instant appeal. The lis has travelled to this Court in following factual background.

6) The appellant (formerly ESPN Software India Private Limited) is the sole and exclusive distributor of some sports channels in India. These include ESPN, Star Sports, Star Sports 2 and Star Cricket. These channels telecast various sporting events such as ICC Cricket, BCCI Cricket, Formula 1, Barclays Premier League Football, ICC Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon etc. for telecasting these events, the appellant enters into a contract with the sporting events organizers. These broadcasting rights have also been acquired from International Cricket Council (ICC) to broadcast cricket events organised by ICC for the Indian territory.

7) Keeping in mind the mandate of Section 3 of the Sports Act, the appellant informed respondent no. 1, i.e., Prasar Bharati on March 07, 2013 that it would be sharing the live signals with Prasar Bharati of cricket matches organised by the ICC. It was followed by another letter dated March 14, 2013 wherein the appellant stated that such live signals, which the appellant would be sharing with Prasar Bharati, shall contain certain added features comprising of commercial elements. Prasar Bharati replied vide letter dated April 06, 2013 informing the appellant that under the law, appellant’s obligations is to share the signals without any commercials. The appellant responded by stating that under the contract with the sporting event organizers, the appellant was receiving the feed containing certain advertisements by the organizer of the sporting events and, therefore, the signals were transmitted as it is, including those advertisements which were not the advertisements booked by the appellant. It was also stated that as per Section 3 of the Sports Act, appellant was to share the live broadcast signal as it is, i.e., the manner in which it was received by it from the copyright owner of the broadcast (the sporting event organizer) and, therefore, it did not amount to any violation of Section 3 of the Sports Act. It was also contended that the appellant had no control over the live signals so received. Since both the parties remain adamant about their respective position, the appellant approached the High Court of Delhi by way of writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution, seeking following declarations and reliefs: