The DD Metro prime time imbroglio; Adhikari lashes out

Prasar Bharati acting CEO Anil Baijal surely must be in a dilemma. His plan to not continue with existing DD Metro partner HFCL-Nine and instead go in for open bidding has backfired if one goes by the kind of offers made to pocket the 8 to 10 pm prime time slot on the network. Rs 180 million by Sri Adhikari Brothers as against the Rs 1,210 (though for a larger programming time block) offered by HFCL Nine is obviously something that will not please either Aunty Sushma or the PMO.

So it's no surprise that noises have emanated from within Mandi House that the bids are not acceptable as the offers are too low. No official notice has been sent to the bidders on what it intends to do. 

According to industry sources, HFCL Nine CEO Ravina Raj Kohli has been in closed door meetings with I&B minister Sushma Swaraj to try and sort out the issue and win back the slot for her company.

In the meanwhile, the bidders, Shri Adhikari Brothers, Prachar Communication's, and PNC are standing aside watching the developments. 

"No official notice has come our way as yet," says Shri Adhikari vice-chairman Markand Adhikari. "Only after that reaches us will we decide our course of action."

Adhikari is angry about the government rethinking on its tendering process and the behind-the-scenes jostling that is taking place. "Nobody stopped anyone from bidding," he says. "Those who have not bid have no right to make an offer after the bids have been opened. It will amount to a foul practice and bad example if this is done. It will not be acceptable." 

Adhikari also dismisses the allegation that a cartel was formed by the bidders to keep the offer price for DD Metro low. "There is no question of cartelisation," he says. "We are competing with each other for the slots and don't forget there is no concept of unity in the production industry." 

He is quick to point out that the Prasar Bharati will have to accept the bids on the principle of business ethics. 

"The facts are that they tendered the DD Metro slot without any floor price. Now they cannot complain that the bids are too low," he points out.

Adhikari is also livid about the fact that HFCL-Nine did not put in its bid and now it is trying to make a play for DD Metro. "Why did they not bid?" he asks. 

To which an official spokesperson of HFCL-Nine responds: "The terms and conditions were not acceptable and commercially viable."

The Shri Adhikari Brothers bid was of Rs 90 million for each hour. Another outfit Prachar Communications bid for the 7-8 pm and 10-11 pm slots with offers of Rs 10 million and Rs 50 million. Prachar's bid was for Rs 105 million for the 8-10 pm slot. The third contender, Pritish Nandy Communications, made a bid for only one hour from 8-9 pm with an offer of just Rs 10 million. 

Including Prachar's bid, the total DD can expect from the 7-11 pm slot is Rs 240 million, one-fifth of what HFCL-Nine had paid last year. 

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