Government to make it mandatory to give India cricket telecast rights to DD

NEW DELHI: Whatever may be the final outcome of the bidding process for India cricket rights, on one thing there is certainty. All matches would be available for viewers of national broadcaster Doordarshan. That is if the government thinking on the issue is implemented.

This flows out of the decision today by the government to have a downlinking policy wherein it would be mandatory that telecast rights of sporting events of national importance be made available to the national broadcaster, which in this case is DD. A senior government official confirmed the development to

Though the rights to the pubcaster are not likely to come free, the dice seems to be loaded heavily in favour of DD and All India Radio.

Whether this would set a precedent in other sectors of the broadcasting business is not clear yet. The broadcast and cable regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), is looking into a case that entails making available channels to all platforms, including cable and DTH, on a non-discriminatory basis under a 'must provide' clause.

Interestingly, today's development came about after information and broadcasting minister Jaipal Reddy had a meeting with senior officials of Prasar Bharati, which manages DD and AIR.The meeting continued till late in the evening.

The decision, which according to government sources is effective immediately, can bring about a paradigm change in the way the media business is managed in India. Similar downlinking laws exist in some other South-East Asian countries, including China and recently even Pakistan.

The government proposes to bring in a proper legislation on the issue very soon, the official said. To take care of any legal issues that may arise in the short-term out of today's decision (that may also include issues other than sports), the government is likely to promulgate an Ordinance, the official said.

It is also learnt that a committee would be formed to look into the issue of pubcaster DD putting up 'competitive bidding' for telecast rights of sporting events, including the telecast rights for the Indian cricket board organised matches in India for the next four years. This committee would include representation from Prasar Bharati and the government.

However, the decision to have a downlinking policy would have to be okayed by the cabinet. 'This should not be much of a problem,' the government official said.


In a related development, the Prasar Bharati board has decided that with regard to the India rights bids it would not have any truck with any other party and would go in for 'competitive bidding' independently.

On 14 May, ESS made a presentation expressing its intention to collaborate with DD for India rights. It offered DD live telecast of all ODIs played under the BCCI contract at a fee of Rs 10 million per match, and Rs 500,000 per hour for daily highlights of Test matches. As per the proposal given to DD, ESS would "retain and sell all the commercial inventory on the above programming telecast by DD and share 10 per cent of its total revenue with it." In return, DD will not be required to bid for television rights or will have to shell out nothing for production either.

Another offer for collaboration to DD also came from Nimbus Communication but it did not involve joint bidding.

Meanwhile, other issues that cropped up during the Prasar Bharati board meet today included pay-scale revision of employees and the finalisation of a launch date for DD's KU-band DTH service. Prasar Bharati is targeting a 15 August debut, which would also be subject to availability of the Prime Minister for the inaugural function.

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