Private broadcasters lobby against sharing of cricket telecast rights with DD

NEW DELHI: In a bid to apprise policy-makers of the ground reality of sports broadcasting, some private broadcasters have submitted a representation to group of ministers (GoM), headed by the defence minister Pranab Mukherjee.

GoM is entrusted to study a proposed legislation relating to telecast of sporting events of national importance.



At the meeting, the private broadcasters stated that mandating sharing of terrestrial feed with pubcaster Doordarshan of all events involving India would upset business calculations and would not create a level-playing field for everybody.

As the proposed legislation stands, the dice would be loaded heavily in favour of Prasar Bharati, which manages DD and All India Radio, a private broadcaster said after the meeting with Mukherjee earlier this week.

In a note to the GoM, the information and broadcasting ministry has proposed, as part of a revised uplink and downlink policies, listed sports events in India or abroad in the national interest could not be telecast on an exclusive basis by any private broadcaster in India and the feed has to be shared with Prasar Bharati.



In its support, the ministry has also said that similar laws exist in countries like the UK, Australia. European Union too is contemplating a legislation on these lines, the ministry has said, quoting from representation made by Prasar Bharati.

First, the private broadcasters conveyed to Mukherjee --- the GoM is likely to meet some time after the present session of Parliament gets adjourned this week --- that there was no need to have such a law as most broadcasters would and could come to informal understanding with Prasar Bharati.

Second, and more importantly, Mukherjee was told that if at all such a law is mandated, then it should not be with retrospective effect (meaning, telecast rights obtained before the passage of the proposed law) and should exclude sporting events held outside India.

The industry-government interaction was facilitated by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), which, too, has come out against mandating such a law forcing sharing of feed with Prasar Bharati.

The meeting, held earlier this week in Delhi, was attended by ESPN India MD RC Venkateish, Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea, Ten Sports India head Sharmistha Rijhwani and Ficci secretary-general Amit Mitra, amongst others.

What's more, Prasar Bharati wants that such shared telecast be also made available for its DTH platform for which subscribers don't pay any monthly subscription fee.

If this was not enough, a section of the government, the ministry of youth affairs and sports, had suggested that "a portion of revenue accruals by the agency (read, mostly satellite sports broadcasters) that gets broadcasting/telecasting rights (of listed events) should be remitted to the national Sports Development Fund."

Thankfully, the nodal ministry for media laws, I&B ministry, struck down this suggestion due to lack of statutory back up, though this observation has been included in the note prepared for the GoM.

The Supreme Court late last month poured cold water on pubcaster Doordarshan's efforts to arm-twist the terrestrial feed from Ten Sports for the recently-concluded cricket tri-series in Sri Lanka.

The SC ruling deflated a till-then smug Prasar Bharati that had issued statements cautioning rights holder Ten Sports against "hoarding" terrestrial rights.

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