Only Geo Super to broadcast ICC World Cup matches: SC
ISLAMABAD: After hearing at length a petition filed by the Geo Group, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the regulatory body, Pemra, to ensure that all matches of the ICC World Cup 2011 were broadcast throughout the cable network in Pakistan on Geo Super only.
Pemra had issued a letter on December 22, confirming to all cable operators that Geo Super had the exclusive cable rights for the global cricket event. But it arbitrarily withdrew that notification on January 10 under pressure from the government and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
The Supreme Court restored the original notification, ordering Pemra to implement it in letter and spirit. Pemra was represented by Salman Akram Raja and the Geo Network by seasoned lawyer Akram Sheikh in the proceedings. Geo moved the court last week after Pemra cancelled the December 22 notification to deny Geo exclusive rights to air the mega event.
The December 22 notification says: “All cable TV operators/MMDS distributors are therefore intimated that unauthorised distribution of the event through any satellite TV channel other than ‘Geo Super’ shall invoke strict action, under Pemra ordinance and rules/regulations made there under, for infringement of legal rights acquired by (Geo TV) M/s Independent Music Group (Pvt) Limited”.
Pemra Chairman Mushtaq Malick held out a categorical assurance that the apex court ruling on Geo Super having exclusive cable satellite rights “will be fully implemented”. He said action would be taken by the authority for any “unauthorised broadcast” on cable.
Pemra lawyer Raja admitted the court verdict was binding on all stakeholders. “I am sure Pemra will act according to the verdict of the Supreme Court and the notification issued by the authority on December 22.”
Geo lawyer Akram Sheikh warned any unauthorised use would entail strict legal action and would constitute contempt of court. “Geo Super has the exclusive cable rights and no other TV channel can broadcast the World Cup matches on cable,” Sheikh told reporters outside the Supreme Court after the ruling.
Pemra’s withdrawal of the notification had shocked this cricket crazy nation of 170 million people. Geo and Jang Group, the largest media network in the country, had already suffered losses worth billions of rupees due to their independent editorial policy that focuses on bringing people closer to the truth through their reporting, to the dislike of powers that be.
The government was trying to block Geo Super from airing the World Cup and use the potential financial losses as a tool to influence editorial policy of the largest media group, observers believe.
The Supreme Court directions ensure that not only millions of cricket fans will be able to enjoy the World Cup, but also that the editorial independence of the country’s largest media group is preserved. This is a win for cricket fans and independence of media as well, observers say.
Source: The News