Sahara's Prasad strikes discordant note on CAS, irks IBF members

NEW DELHI: Divisions seem to be appearing within the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the apex body of broadcasters operating in India, even as Sahara TV president Mahesh Prasad's nomination on the task force on conditional access has been questioned by some members of the IBF.

At an emergency meeting of the IBF's board yesterday, also attended by the London-based Mark Young, managing director (EMEIA), BBC Worldwide, the issue of Prasad's nomination to the CAS task force came up, along with other matters, and, according to the Foundation sources, there were some "uncomfortable moments."

The sources pointed out that some members were upset with Prasad's reported stand on CAS that is contrary to that of the IBF and his "continued rigid stance that he would speak his mind at the task force meetings."

When contacted by, Prasad --- who did not attend yesterday's task force meeting also --- did not want to comment initially on the issue of his nomination saying, "Since I did not attend yesterday's meeting, I have to get a full report what transpired before I can comment."

But, when asked whether his alleged "rigid stance on CAS" is upsetting IBF members, Prasad retorted, "IBF is not God that I have to follow what it says. I am at liberty to speak my mind and what is fair for free to air channels."

Incidentally, Prasad is the only member of the task force who represents a free to air channel, while the other representatives from the broadcasting sector are from companies that run subscription-based channels.

The other IBF nominees on the task force are Manu Sawhney, head of ESPN India, Shantonu Aditya, head of distribution Sony Entertainment TV and chief of One Alliance and the latest to join the bandwagon is Star India's chief executive Peter Mukerjea, whose candidature for the task force was okayed by the IBF board yesterday.

The IBF sources also pointed out that Prasad is to be sent an official letter where it would be asked that he apologises for his comments. The sources, quoting partly from the letter to be sent to Prasad, said, "The board of IBF took a view that nominees of CAS task force shall speak in one voice and if Mr Mahesh Prasad has a different view from the majority of the members of IBF, the president will be constrained to withdraw his nomination from IBF as one of the members of the task force."

When asked on this aspect, Prasad said, "The IBF does not have the moral authority to do any such thing and I'll continue to speak my mind. Anyway, I have not received any intimation from the IBF yet."

At a time when pre-CAS plans are going through a difficult phase with consensus on important issue eluding, this difference of opinion on CAS within IBF may make things more complicated.

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