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Sports broadcasters expect reforms from budget 2015

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MUMBAI: Private sector is one of the largest contributor to Indian economy and the first step towards economic reform would be making an investor friendly scenario. With a vast market like India if private sector is refraining from investing then there are certain issues at the bureaucratic level, which are hampering the economic growth. In such a scenario the biggest challenge is to garner trust, not by compromising with national security and independence but by policies. Policies that rejuvenate investors to invest and expand. Be it in Madison Square or Sydney Allphones Arena, the entire Indian diaspora was promised a better business friendly India by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which laid foundation to skyscrapers of aspirations.

Now emphasising on the current business workflow in India, a company has to abide by both central and state laws, which turns out as an obstacle. Moreover government often intervenes in the financial and strategic affairs of a private company. Sports broadcasting industry is one of the sufferer of such obligations. Broadcasters purchase content from  firms by paying the amount demanded, but while producing the content they are forced to follow certain regulations, which indirectly decides how much should be charged for the content.

Opposing such intervention Ten Sports CEO Rajesh Sethi told Indiantelevision.com, “In India, private sector is a huge contributor to the economy and with digitization process in its final stages sports media can play a key role in economic growth provided we are backed with business friendly policies. The mandatory sharing of sports feed is something that directly hits us, though it’s not an issue related to the budget, I would certainly like the government to look into such issues. Moreover, we purchase content from somewhere by paying certain amount and regulations restricts us when it comes to selling it. So the next level of de-regularisation or de-tarrifisation is something that I expect from this budget. I have high expectations from Arun Jaitley as he is someone who has immense knowledge of finance and economics and understands the problems that we are facing. He has delivered so far and I hope he does in this budget too.”

That somehow sums up the private sports broadcasting industry’s aspirations from budget and Jaitley.

The perspective of government broadcasting sector came from Doordarshan (DD) deputy director general C K Jain. Hailing the concept of Make in India he insisted that the government should reduce dependence on Chinese products. “I expect the government to remove service taxes from advertisements as we also have the same functions and responsibilities. Also I would request the government to treat us as a government entity and exempt us from various taxes and liabilities. From sports perspective, service tax on advertisements is certainly a botheration and should be dealt with.”

Sharing his personal expectation Jain added, “Make In India has the potential to play a key role in economic growth provided government pays special attention to it. The local manufacturers need to be backed financially with loans and tax rebates. The poor of the country needs to be benefited from the budget, as the goal is to uplift the poor to middle class, which will reduce the dependence in subsidies. If subsidies are reduced government will have more money which they can spend other important sectors.”     

The Finance Minster has been criticised as pro private sector in recent past after he decided not to intervene in a legal battle between DD and Star regarding World Cup. The Sports Act of Prasar Bharati forces private channels to share feed of any event of international importance with pubcaster DD, which enables them to showcase it live. Now the act was brought to ensure that one who cannot afford private channels gets access to events of such magnitude. Which is a fair call considering every citizen in the country has a right to information and should not miss the World Cup or Olympics as they cannot afford private channels. The problem is with sharing the feed with cable subscribers. BCCI, Nimbus Communications and the two sports channels (ESPN and Star) went to court with a plea that no cable television network could broadcast such sports events without a licence from the content owners. 

In an affidavit, Star Sports had said that it was losing around Rs 290 crore every year by sharing its sports signals with Doordarshan and was expecting to lose around Rs 120 crore by sharing the telecast of the World Cup this year. Under the Act, the rights holder gets 75 per cent of the revenue from the telecast on DD. The remaining 25 per cent is retained by DD.

While Jaitley plans to increase GDP and reduce fiscal deficit through his financial proposal and policies the entire nation’s eyes and ears are glued to his words even as you read this report today (28 February, 2015) with immense expectations and aspirations. It remains to be seen if Jaitley and company makes it or breaks it.

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