DD slaps Rs 1 billion+ footage tab on channels

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: Prasar Bharati is not letting up in its determination to mop up revenue from channels for usage of video clips of the ongoing cricket series, for which Doordarshan has exclusive telecast rights.

The pubcaster today issued notices to 16 channels slapping bills totaling Rs 11,638,200 for usage of clippings over the prescribed ceiling of two minutes a day for free usage. The heaviest tab was on NDTV's English and Hindi channels for a combined total of Rs 3,972,600.


Addressing a press conference here today, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma said, "We don't want to take a confrontation route with the TV channels. Rather, we'd like them to understand our point of view and what we think is copyright violation."

According to Sarma, TV channels cannot buy footage at the rate of Rs 6,000 per minute and then use those clips to mount a programme of various duration and sell advertising time before, after and during that show.

Asked, whether Prasar Bharati would ask TV channels to stop airing such programmes (Aaj Tak airs Superhit Muqabla, Star News Wah! Cricket and Cricket ke Mujrim and ESPN Showdown, for example), Sarma said he expects the legal notice would be taken seriously and such tactics would stop.

But the TV channels counter that DD's interpretation of its own terms and conditions for news access is lopsided and a case of delayed reaction.

NDTV director Narayan Rao said, "We are adhering to DD's terms and conditions and will seek further classification if necessary." While Star News CEO Uday Shankar refused to comment on the legal notice, Zee Telefilms news director Laxmi Goel denied that any legal notice has been sent by DD. He added: "A letter has come from DD and we are contesting the amount claimed as we feel it's on the higher side."

Reiterating his earlier stand, ESPN India MD RC Venkateish said, "We'll talk to DD for further clarification." Asked whether, ESPN would stop airing its two-hour cricket programme in the evening, Venkateish added, "It's not possible today, but we'd seek legal advise on this issue."

The confusion seems to be emanating from the fact that while DD is claiming cricket clips cannot be used for programming, except news bulletins, TV channels counter in a covering letter, written by Sarma, no differentiation had been made between news and programmes.

Another TV channel felt that if it's paying for footage, it cannot be stopped from using them in programmes, which can be sold to advertisers. But, as Sarma pointed out, there were channels like ETV too that approached the pubcaster and apologised seeking concessions on payments, which are "being studied."

It looks like that DD has realised that after buying footage from it for Rs 6,000 per minute, TV channels are mounting programmes where the advertising time is being sold at a premium. No wonder, Sarma admitted, without referring to this directly, "if such programmes continue, the financial proposition of DD's highlight package would get adversely affected."

As is clear from the chart below, prepared on rough estimates by DD officials for the first Test at Mohali, ESPN Star Sports has been billed in the same way as the news channels.

Amount Due
NDTV 24x7 Rs 20,70,600
NDTV India Rs 19,02,000
Headlines Today Rs 1,578,000
Star News Rs 1,230,000
Sahara Samay Rs 1,140,000
Aaj Tak Rs 930,000
Sun Rs 774,000
TV 9 Rs 480,000
India TV Rs 456,000
Asianet Global Rs 348,000
Zee News Rs 282,000
ETV2 Rs 240,000
ESPN Rs 126,000
Star Sports Rs 78,000
Ten Sports Rs 1,800

Rs 1,800

TOTAL Rs 11,638,200

Just before the start of the first Test match in Mohali on 8 March, Sarma had written letters to all channel heads informing them of the terms and conditions for use of cricket match footage.

The terms and conditions as prescribed in the letters allow 30 seconds of free usage of clippings for news bulletins, subject to a ceiling of two minutes a day. The terms, however, prohibit bulletins being positioned and promoted as cricket match programmes. In reality, every news channel has got a cricket special programme for which footage is important.

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