Provision for penalty for defaulting channels in new telecast ordinance

NEW DELHI: Television channels that fail to comply by the ordinance promulgated late last week for compulsory sharing of live feeds with the national broadcaster Prasar Bharati would have to pay a penalty up to Rs 10 million and also face possible revocation or suspension of license.

The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Ordinance 2007 promulgated on February three has retrospective affect from 11 November, 2005 when the government had issued its guidelines for downlinking of TV channels. The Uplinking Guidelines had been issued on December 12, 2005. It has also been stipulated that no action no action of the government would be challenged in any court of law.

With the Guidelines coming in the ambit of the Ordinance which is expected to be replaced by an Act of Parliament in the ensuing Budget session, the government has taken upon itself the powers to enforce them with retrospective effect. The guidelines are already the subject matter of the petition in the Delhi High Court by Nimbus Communications on the Indo-West Indies series telecast. Nimbus, which owns Neo Sports channel, had expressed apprehensions that the government may resort to coercive methods for share their exclusive.

The ordinance also provides for a revenue sharing formula between private and public broadcasters. Advertisement sharing between private and the public broadcasters would be in the ratio of 75:25 in case of TV coverage in favour of the rights holder and 50:50 in case of radio coverage.

Meanwhile, Neo Sports yesterday announced live telecast of the India-Sri Lanka one-day international cricket series for the Hero Honda Cup starting in Kolkata tomorrow with the Hindi feed on Neo Sports Plus. Neo Sports also announced a cricket show called Extra Cover, a pacy pre, mid and post the live match on Neo Sports plus, featuring some of the games' stalwarts like Javagal Srinath, Dean Jones and Arjuna Ranatunga.

Of the four match series, the first tie at Kolkata will be telecast from 1 pm to 11:30 pm, while the three other matches at Rajkot on 11 February, at Margao on 14 February and in Vishakhapatnam on 17 February will be telecast live from 7:30 am to 6 pm.

Neo sports holds the rights to all the international and domestic matches played in India . This is in addition to 67 per cent rights of all confirmed international cricket series featuring the Indian team till March 2010.

All India Radio will also broadcast live commentary of all the matches alternatively in Hindi and English. The commentary can be heard between 1400 and 2230 hrs for the first ODI in Kolkata, while it would be broadscast between 0830 to 1730 hrs for all the other three matches.

Earlier this week, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi indicated it was also contemplating action to ensure that private broadcasters gave good quality feed to Doordarshan. When asked what kind of action was contemplated, the Minister said on the sidelines of the Editors Conference on Social Sectors: ''When you do something, do not reveal what you are doing.''

He denied the charge that private broadcasters were losing in business by sharing sports feed with the Doordarshan.

The Ordinance was resorted to as Nimbus refused to share live footage of the just concluded India-West Indies cricket series with public broadcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio. However, Doordarshan was permitted to show a seven-minute deferred telecast and All India Radio was allowed running live commentary following an order by the Delhi High Court.

After promulgation of the ordinance, Nimbus which holds exclusive rights to broadcast all international matches to be held in India until 2010 will have to share live feeds of all cricket matches to be played in the country with Prasar Bharati, besides sharing advertisement revenue from joint feeds.

Furthermore, the ordinance will help millions of viewers across the country having the facility of only terrestrial or free-to-air channels to enjoy live sports events of national and international importance.

Talks between Nimbus, which holds the rights given by the Board for Control of Cricket in India and Prasar Bharati broke down just a day before the India-West Indies cricket series was to begin on January 21. Nimbus had refused to permit the signals to be shown on any DTH platform and said the signals would have to be encrypted.

Meanwhile, Prasar Bharati has already filed an appeal against the order of the single bench of the High Court, and it is expected to come up for hearing late next week.

The issue of sharing feed with Doordarshan and All India Radio has been controversial from the beginning, with private sports broadcasters arguing that it was unfair to them as it would affect their revenue. They contend that telecast rights are obtained at the expense of large amounts and sharing their signals with DD and AIR would make the business less remunerative.

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