Television

Ficci against sports law favouring DD

NEW DELHI: The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) has warned against framing a law making it mandatory for sharing feed of listed sports events with pubcaster Doordarshan, saying it would amount to ?competitive inequality.?

 

 

?Ficci submits that mandatory sports licensing should not be enacted because of the inherent competitive inequality the system has created between Doordarshan and its competing television broadcasters and also because of other associated anti-competitive effects,? the apex chamber of commerce has

said in an advocacy note.

The note, which was circulated after some private broadcasters met a minister examining the proposed legislation on 22 August, adds: ?We (Ficci) believe that the costs of these anti-competitive effects outweigh any alleged benefits to the community arising from having the system in place.?

 

 

The Indian government is proposing amendments in uplink laws and putting in place guidelines relating to downlink of TV channels in India. Both these laws have a clause that states that any private broadcaster would have to share with DD on a mandatory basis feed of listed sporting events held within and outside India.

The controversial clause has brought together private sports broadcasters who otherwise squabble on sports rights. Ficci, which is said to have some lobbying clout with the government, is actively providing its platform for the industry to air its viewpoints.

Pointing out that most private broadcasters rely on two sources of revenue, advertising and subscription, Ficci has said subscription income is important for survival of sports channels as ?high costs of (sporting) rights cannot be covered by advertising revenues alone.?

?Such a move will financially cripple the sports broadcasting industry in India, since in the absence of addressability no cable operator will come forward to pay any subscription fee for sports channels once all the key content is shared,? Ficci?s note, circulated after a government-industry meet on 22 August, states.

The incremental ad revenue from sharing the feed with Doordarshan will not be able to cover even 10-15 per cent of the loss that will be suffered by ?undermining of the pay business model,? Ficci has said in the note that has been given to defense minister Pranab Mukherjee who?s heading a group of ministers examining proposed amendments in broadcasting laws.

According to Ficci, ?The proposed regulation, thus, will be a drain on the capital investment and programming development will slow and the quality and variety of programming for viewers will suffer.?

Sounding a warning note, the apex chamber of commerce has said that restrictions on sports events under the proposed legislation could lead tomorrow to extension to any variety of events deemed to be of `national interest,? thereby ?casting a pall of uncertainty? over the entire private broadcasting sector, curtailing the enthusiasm for investment and stunting overall media industry?s growth.

Since the proof of the pudding lies in eating, Ficci has countered arguments put forward by DD and the I&B ministry that such laws exist in other western nations also.

?It appears that the regulation, under consideration in the case of India, is aimed at requiring the private broadcasters to share sports broadcasting rights with the government-owned Doordarshan, which would in turn be free to distribute to end users via its terrestrial free to air stations or its DTH

platform.

?This approach of mandating private broadcasters sharing (content) with DD, which has both a terrestrial and DTH service, is not consistent with international regulatory norms,? Ficci has counter-punched.

The detailed Ficci note, which has been accessed by Indiantelevision.com, also states that such a legislation would have adverse impact on development of sports in general and on various sports federations that are cash strapped and unable to pump in money in their respective fields.

In this connection it?s worth mentioning that ESPN Star Sports has joined hands with the Indian Hockey Federation to develop domestic hockey over a period of 10 years and to make the game attractive to audiences of all types.

?While formulating policies/guidelines, various aspects such as competition/anti-trust legislation, monopolistic practices, free competition, a level playing field, adequate compensation, and mechanism for identifying events of national importance, manner of designating such events, duration of validity of such a list of designated events and other factors must be addressed,? Ficci has said in conclusion.

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