Cricket is no longer a sport in India, but an entertainment, and probably for this reason, even an MS Dhoni haircut gets much more coverage than any other individual from other sports. One of the Day Three sessions at FICCI Frames 2009 was on the ‘Role of Media in Sports Promotion: Does it really support forms other than cricket?’
The panelists for this session included Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi, sports commentator, anchor and columnist Harsha Bhogle, Rukin Kizilbash, GM, Taj Television (Ten Sports), and Jaideep Sahni, who had written the screenplay for the SRK-starrer ‘Chak De! India’.
Commencing the session, Bindra observed, “The positive role of media on non-cricketing sports still has a long way to go. The media needs to follow sportspersons’ careers and then help nurture it. Ironically, sports only come into the picture when there is some controversy and when there is no cricket going on, therefore, it becomes important that the media gets itself educated about other sports as well.”
Bhogle said, “Indian media tends to be box-office driven, and one reason why cricket has been successful is because it made itself friendly to its viewers. What other sports need to understand here is the art of packaging and sponsorship, which is very important, and what the Government should do is divest in sports and let every sport run by itself.”
Ten Sports’ Kizilbash was of the opinion that, “Indian cricket gets between 5 per cent and 9 per cent of the TVR, while non-cricketing sports gets around 0.5 per cent TVR. There has been no significant growth for sports over the last few years. Fortunately, both print and the broadcast media have given coverage to sports other than cricket. From the broadcasters’ perspective, non-cricket sports need to introduce new content, India needs heroes in other sports and sports federations need to take up the responsibility for promoting other sports.”
Screenwriter Sahni noted, “Most sports channels seem to be gambling on cricket, especially when they win, and that’s not all, they even re-run old cricket matches. The ironic fact, however, is that this country is not interested in sports other than cricket, and neither do we watch the sport unless it produces winners.”
Lambasting the media, Sahni said, “While you wait another two years for a big cricket lottery, why don’t you use the gaps to just take a chance for other sports as well. Abhinav Bindra’s competition was not his rival country participants, but ironically it was us – the viewers, his own countrymen. He had to win that medal to attract our attention to that sport.”
Bhupathi pointed out, “We have a flawed system of sports in India, and sports like tennis and basketball do not even have proper equipment, and worse, it is governed by the wrong set of people. The media, however, is there only to print and telecast what the people want to read, see and hear, so we have to deliver good players and put our policy in place. And if we deliver results, people would also want to see or read about that.”