Television

BCCI will take another 10 days to award India rights

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NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The suspense continues for Zee Telefilms and ESPN Star Sports, the main title contenders for the biggest prize in Indian broadcast television today - telecast rights for international matches to be played in India for the next four years.



The Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) has deferred "for a few more days" --- about ten days by present indications --- a final decision on awarding the telecast rights.



What is at stake here is the live television and radio broadcast rights for international matches to be played in India for the next four years from October 2004 to September 2008.



Speaking to indiantelevision.com over phone from Kolkata after today's crucial working committee meeting, Indian cricket board supremo Jagmohan Dalmiya said some more clarifications were being sought from the rights contenders.



"We have decided to defer an immediate decision and would seek clarifications from all parties concerned," Dalmiya said, pointing out that this was part of an effort to be "as transparent as possible."



Queried as to why further clarifications were needed, Dalmiya said it was to make sure that the board was clear off any legal case once the rights are

awarded. "We would not like to get involved in legal problems at a later stage," he explained, but refused to detail the type of clarifications that may be sought from the rights claimants.



Once the clarifications have been received, BCCI's marketing committee would meet again and then make its announcement, Dalmiya said.



While ESPN-Star Sports termed this development as a "positive one," highest bidder Zee Telefilms was confidence personified. "What is a delay of a few days?" Essel Group vice president, corporate brand development group, Ashish Kaul quipped in the evening, adding, "satyamave jayate (truth shall prevail)."



ESPN India MD RC Venkateish, who has been camping in Kolkata, where Dalmiya is based,

said over phone, "We appreciate BCCI's decision to review the whole process. We also hope that various aspects like technical and other capabilities would also be clarified (from other bidders, notably Zee) and financial capability would not be the sole criterion."



Interestingly, a directive on the tendering process from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is doing the rounds of the media. Though the CVC order does not directly have a bearing on the BCCI telecast rights, the

directive says that there should be no-post tendering negotiations and if at all such a thing has to happen, it should be with the lowest bidder (if applied in this case then it would be the highest bidder).



The CVC directive, which was even sent to chiefs of autonomous organisations, societies and trusts, however, makes it clear that the directive on tendering process is applicable where a government agency is involved.



Meanwhile, an agency report from Kolkata said that notable absentees in today's BCCI meeting were organisation vice-presidents Kamal Morarka and

Gautam Roy and former president AC Muthiah. Those present included three vice-presidents of the Board, secretary SK Nair, joint secretary Prof Ratnakar Shetty, treasurer Jyoti Bajpai and chairman of the finance committee N Srinivasan.



Zee Network is the highest bidder at $ 260 million for the telecast rights. ESPN-Star are the second highest bidders at approximately $ 230 million followed by Prasar Bharti at $ 150 million. Bringing up the rear are Sony Entertainment Television India at $ 132 million and Ten Sports with a $ 115 million punt.



Both Zee and ESS claim to offer Indian cricket the best possible deal but Zee has backed its assertion by committing an additional Rs 945 million for development of domestic cricket and 52-72 days of live coverage. ESPN-Star on the other hand says it will provide 100 days of live domestic coverage besides daily packages on all domestic events.

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