Let's resolve cricket telecast issue: Zee to BCCI

NEW DELHI: India's largest vertically-integrated media company Zee Telefilms has extended an olive branch to the Indian cricket board with an aim to resolve the deadlocked cricket telecast issue.

In a letter, written by Zee Tele CMD Subhash Chandra to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Ranbir Singh Mahendra, Zee has asked the Board to give primacy to Indian cricket, while seeking to resolve the matter.

Now that a new team has taken over, we were wanting to explore the possibility of a reasonable resolution of the issue of telecast of TV rights,Chandra has written in the letter,dated 1 February.

This letter, now in the possession of, clearly states that Zee is willing to put the unpleasantness of the past behind and move on to fulfilling its commitment to Indian cricket as stressed in the post-bidding period.

Pointing out that Zee has grave apprehensions over the conduct of the past officials of the BCCI, which were subject matter of petitions in Indian courts, Chandra has said that his company is willing to explore solutions consistent with our legitimate rights and expectations.

The communication from Chandra to Mahendra, however, makes it clear that things might get messy if people, who had assisted Zee with funds (for the possible acquisition of the telecast rights that had emboldened Zee to quote a price of $ 308 million), made counter claims on the media company.

We are also conscious of possible claims from those who assisted us with funds and irrespective of the results of the present case,Chandra hammers in a point, adding,If claims are made against us,it would further complicate matters between the Board and us.

The letter goes on to add, giving the tale a truly soap opera and swadeshi twist,We are sure that there being no truly other competing Indian channel in the fray (other than Indian pubcaster Doordarshan), there is no legal impediment in the Board arriving at some reasonable arrangement with us.

In its wisdom, the BCCI did not reply to Chandras letter, subsequent to which another letter from Zee followed 15 days later. This too has drawn a blank from the BCCI that, anyway, met in the Capital earlier this week to discuss various matters related to the up and coming tour of Pakistan to India.

BCCIs failure to respond to these letters raises the question as to why the Indian cricket board is not acknowledging the letter when the other side is expressing willingness to discuss the issue and settle it amicably.

Efforts made by to elicit a response from the BCCI on the Chandra letter drew a blank.

To do a quick recap of the cricket telecast saga, last year after the bids for the rights opened, and after a lot of backroom drama, Zee Telefilms emerged the highest contender with a revised quote of $ 308 million, closely followed by ESPN Star Sports. BCCI announced its decision to award the rights till 2007 to Zee when legal doors were knocked by various parties.

After the Supreme Court recently refusing to accept the BCCI as a 'State under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution, Zee moved the Madras high court against the BCCI, which had cancelled the bids, claiming breach of fundamental rights under Article 226 of the Constitution.

The petition was filed on 7 February in the Madras HC.At the hearing on 9 February the judge passed an "unconditional" interim order "restraining BCCI from negotiating or getting into any kind of contract with anyone regarding the award of telecast rights till further notice."

The case came up for hearing on 17 February and the argument will continue on 21 February. Meanwhile, the BCCI has admitted that it has incurred a loss of Rs 1,500 million so far due to the telecast rights not having been awarded far in a proper way. In a letter to Niranjan Shah, Secretary of Saurashtra Cricket Association, BCCI secretary SK Nair admitted that the on-going impasse over the telecast issue has resulted in a loss to the Board.

Nair, in his letter, stated that Doordarshan would be paying Rs. 1 billion for the terrestrial rights of the matches against Australia and South Africa and another Rs 300 million is expected from the sale of overseas rights.

"Therefore, if we assume that Rs 2,75 crore (Rs 2,750 million) would have come from these two series if the four-year deal was through, the ad hoc arrangement for the Australia and South Africa series had fetched Rs 125 crore (Rs 1,250 million) and, therefore, the total loss was say Rs 150 crore (Rs 1,500 million)," Nair has informed Shah.

As the telecast rights issue returns, like Banquos ghost, to haunt everybody, including the Indian public, before a cricket series begins, it seems like time to set things in order once and for all.

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