It’s not Cricket! I&B plan for DD spooks sports broadcasters

It’s not Cricket! I&B plan for DD spooks sports broadcasters thumbnail
MUMBAI:Sports broadcasters in India are worried about a proposal to allow fixtures deemed to be of national significance to be broadcast by state-run Prasar Bharati on private cable and direct-to-home (DTH) platforms. Prasar Bharati’s Doordarshan channels can currently show such matches but only on its terrestrial broadcasts or its own Free Dish platform.

The information and broadcasting ministry wants to amend the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007, and has sought feedback on the plan. The Act had been put in place to allow Doordarshan to show widely followed sporting events to which it didn’t have the rights such as the cricket World Cup, India’s cricket matches, the football World Cup inaugural, semifinals and finals on a free-to-air basis.

After rights holders challenged the mandatory sharing clause, a Supreme Court ruling in August last year effectively meant that Doordarshan wouldn’t be able to show the events on the private cable and DTH platforms. “This is the classic case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Problem is, even the intentions are not clear in this case as it’s not going to help even end users,” said a sports broadcasting executive on condition of anonymity. “If the government gets its way, the Act will be detrimental to sports broadcasters, sports federations and, in the long run, will ruin the entire sports industry.”

Broadcasters such as Star India and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) have invested significant amounts of money to acquire the media rights of sporting events on the basis of revenue potential from advertising and distribution of channels. Their fear is that allowing DD National to air games would undermine broadcasters’ ability to demand a premium on ads and channel distribution.

“The commercial viability of sports is critical for the ecosystem to thrive,” said Kaushik Moitra, partner at law firm Bharucha & Partners. “While access to events of national interest is a concern, it is unfair to force broadcasters who have paid a hefty licence fee to share their fees at zero revenue potential.” The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Star India and SPN didn’t respond to queries.

Star India chairman Uday Shankar had previously told ET that the issue was a concern for broadcasters.

“The whole Sports Act was created to make the key Indian sports available to those who could not afford to pay for it. That provision was being misused by pay TV operators by giving FTA (free-to-air) channels to pay TV subscribers, charging money from them and not sharing it with the rights holder,” Shankar had said after the Supreme Court verdict.

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