In a significant development, the Union Cabinet on February 1, 2007 okayed a Sports Broadcasting Signals (mandatory sharing with Prasar Bharati) Ordinance 2007, which makes it mandatory for private broadcasters to share live feed, without advertisements, of sporting events of national importance with Doordarshan and All India Radio.
This is expected to put an end to rows like the recent one between Nimbus and Prasar Bharati, wherein the former first refused to share the live feed of the ongoing India-Windies ODI series with the public broadcaster and then insisted on a 15-minute delayed telecast on Doordarshan.
The approval of the Sports Broadcasting Ordinance assumes importance with just weeks left for the World Cup Cricket tournament to begin in West Indies. The Ordinance would be replaced in the Parliament by an Act for which a Bill would be tabled in the coming Budget Session. The list of sporting events that have to be shared will be short-listed soon.
Giving details of the decision, Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi expressed the hope that the Ordinance would be notified before the start of the coming India-Sri Lanka series on February 8. It is mandatory for sports right holder channels to give advertisement free live feed. Private broadcasters like Nimbus and Sony TV have paid thousands of crores for rights to matches in India and the upcoming World Cup. They will now have to give the feed free to Doordarshan. In return DD will give them 75 per cent of the ad revenues to the broadcaster.
“The revenues will be shared on a 75:25 basis, with the big portion going to the private broadcaster. The government would consult various sporting bodies to decide which are of national interest,” Dasmunsi said. However, encryption is not possible immediately and will require around seven months if at all the government decides to go for it. “There are 1,400 centres where we have to encrypt. We have to see how to get equipment and how to go about the process,” the minister added.
Meanwhile, there have been complaints against Nimbus that it hasn’t been giving the same feed to Doordarshan which was going on Neo Sports but a secondary feed which didn’t have additional features like varied camera angles, wagon wheel, hawk eye and action replay, etc, Prasar Bharti sources said that they had taken note of this and the matter would be taken up at an appropriate forum.
Nimbus Communication, which holds exclusive rights to broadcast all international matches to be held in India until 2010, gave a guarded reaction to the Cabinet approval of the Ordinance. Nimbus has threatened to go to court if the Ordinance would mean telecasting feed on DD’s DTH platform. This might become a bone of contention as the Ordinance 2007 would ensure telecast sharing on all platforms of Prasar Bharati, including DTH.
''We welcome the move if it results in equitable sharing of revenue between the parties, but we will be able to give a final response only after we study the details of the law proposed to be enacted,'' a Nimbus spokesperson said.
The spokesperson further said that it was a step in the right direction and would result in checking piracy. ''Our main concern was that if we gave our feed to DD it will not be able to save our exclusive rights gained at the cost of a huge amount from being misused by pirates in the case of encryption of its signals,'' The spokesperson said, adding Nimbus’ legal team would formulate their response after the whole document was available.