Prasar Bharati wants law mandating sharing of sports telecast rights by private TV channels

Stung by telecast rights holder like World Sports Group Nimbus and Taj Sports (managing Ten Sports channel) not willing to play ball, Prasar Bharati has decided to appeal to the third umpire - the Indian government - seeking a "level playing field" in the name of larger interest of the viewing Indian public.

"The Prasar Bharati board has decided to ask the government to come out with a legal framework, ahead of the enactment of the Communication Convergence Bill, which would make it mandatory for the satellite and cable rights holder(s) to share the feed (of events felt important for Indian viewers) with Doordarshan's terrestrial network," Prasar Bharati chief executive K.S. Sarma said today.

The Prasar Bharati oversees the working of pubcasters DD and All India Radio. Despite its corporatisation, which was modelled on British pubcaster BBC, the government (read the information and broadcasting ministry) still retains control over the functioning of DD and AIR. 

Addressing a press conference in Delhi on Friday, Sarma said that the government, in consultation with the Prasar Bharati will decide on the events which are telecast worthy and of importance to the Indian viewers and will notify them which will make it mandatory for telecast rights holder to share them with DD and/or AIR.

Pointing out that Parasar Bharati cannot afford to pay "large and heavy fee" to acquire telecast rights, a la private satellite channels, Sarma said, "Instead, we'd prefer to go in for revenue sharing (with the company that markets the events telecast on DD)."

In recent times, Prasar Bharati has lost out on the live telecast of the ongoing soccer World Cup and is also under severe pressure from World Sports Group Nimbus on the issue of rights of ICC-organised cricket matches, the cable and satellite TV rights which are held by Sony Entertainment TV for six years.

According to Sarma, since the Prasar Bharati board has decided to refer the telecast issue to the government, the formal missive will "be sent soon."

However, he did not elaborate on the fact how the government can have a policy in isolation like this in place. 

Chapter IX of the Communication Convergence Bill, 2001 details special provision in respect of certain services, specially live broadcasting of certain events.

The clauses read: "For the purpose of ensuring the widest availability of viewing in India of a national or international event of general public interest to be held in India, the central government shall notify the same well in advance.

"The national or international event of general public interest notified under sub-section (I) shall have to be carried on the network of a public service broadcaster as well. "In order to strive towards providing a level playing field for bidders for broadcasting rights or person interested in receiving broadcasting rights for events notified under sub-section(i), the Commission (the proposed super regulatory authority for IT, telecom and broadcasting areas) shall determine, well in advance of such an event, the principles and terms for the access to the network of public service broadcaster."

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