TV production companies, DD get investigative agency's stick

The cricket match fixing saga has spilled over into the television industry. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the issue of corruption in India's national sport, yesterday sent its investigative officers into the premises of DD officials, TV production houses Stracon, World-Tel and UTV. The CBI believes that DD officials had connived with representatives of these companies, awarded them telecast and air time marketing rights unfairly at throwaway prices, and robbed the government of millions of dollars.

The CBI is investigating deals dating back to 1997 and 1998 related to the ICC Knockout tournament 1998, Wimbeldon 1997, the French Open 1997, The Independence Cup 1997 and other sports tournaments. Stracon, UTV, and World-Tel were involved in these transactions.

The CBI raided the premises of the then DD director general K.S. Sarma, deputy director general (sports) K. Kunnhi Krishnan, deputy director generals Rakesh Bahadur, Sanjeev Dutta, and P.K. Seth. The agency also struck at the premises of Stracon boss Siddartha Ray and Anurag Misra, World-Tel boss Mark Mascarenhas, and UTV's Ronnie Screwvala, according to a report in newspaper daily The Asian Age.

Will the CBI come up with a lot of dirt? An industry observer says that it is quite likely that UTV will squeak through clean, but Stracon and World-Tel may find themselves in the box. His view is that the CBI should take a dekko at how some of the officials had their children's education paid for in the US, and how one of the officials took a long sabbatical from his DD posting.

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