The clash between the national broadcaster, Prasar Bharati, and Ten Sports has set the Government thinking about a law pertaining to broadcast of events of national importance. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is now looking at regulations around the world before formulating one for India.
Highly-placed officials in the Ministry said, "We will consider a law for events of national importance. In the recent DD-Ten Sports controversy, the Supreme Court has kept the interest of the general public in mind while directing Ten Sports to share its signals with Doordarshan. However, it is essential to have a regulation in place."
Interestingly, the Broadcast Bill, 1997, and the Communications Convergence Bill, 2001, have talked about the live broadcasting of events of national importance. The Broadcast Bill had clearly stated, "No licensee shall carry a live broadcast of any sporting or other event of national or international interest held in India, without the consent of the Authority unless the public service broadcasters have also been given the broadcasting right for carrying the same." The Convergence Bill had said national or international events of general public interest "shall have to be carried on the network of a public service broadcaster as well." However, to provide a level-playing field for bidders for broadcasting rights, or persons interested in receiving broadcasting right for events, the Regulator will determine, well in advance of such event, the principles and terms for the access to the network of the public service broadcaster, it added.
"Since both these Bills have been shelved there was no law to decide on the DD-Ten Sports issue. Therefore, the Court had to intervene," they added.
The Government may also consider asking broadcasters, who do not have a terrestrial network, but hold exclusive rights, to share the events with national broadcaster on terrestrial mode. "If the channel is available only on cable and satellite mode, why should they not part with the terrestrial rights, since it is of no use to them," said sources.
While no time-frame has been fixed for this law, the Government is hoping that it would be in place soon after the elections. "The bids for telecast rights of the BCCI matches will be held shortly and such questions will crop up again. We must be prepared for the future," they added.