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Prasar Bharati tries to muscle its way into telecast rights

23-September-2004
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Prasar Bharati tries to muscle its way into telecast rights

Within hours of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) cancelling the tender for four-year telecast rights on Tuesday, Prasar Bharati CEO K S Sarma was on the phone to Mr Dalmiya. Sources said Mr Dalmiya made two offers to Mr Sarma, but Prasar Bharati did not find them good enough.

So the issue of who will get the cricket telecast rights is still wide open. It could well go to the Doordarshan-TWI combine. At least for the first three series against Australia, South Africa and Pakistan.

The Prasar Bharati source said Mr Dalmiya offered the four-year contract to the public broadcaster for just a dollar over and above what the original highest bidder Zee had quoted. That’s $308 million plus $1. Mr Sarma was also given the choice of showing the India-Australia Test matches at $2 million per day.

It is believed that the government expressed the view that the pubcaster should not acquire cricket telecast rights at an ‘inflated’ price. In 1999, Prasar Bharati had paid around $230 million for five-year rights to matches played in India. This time too, it was hoping for exclusive telecast rights to matches in India.

In Kolkata, BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya told the press the Indian cricket board would try to telecast the India-Australia cricket series on its own, as it is a question of the country’s prestige.

Meanwhile, Zee Telefilms has taken a more solid step: of approaching the Supreme Court challenging BCCI’s cancellation of the tenders. Not surprisingly, the Zee stock ended at Rs 156.95 on the National Stock Exchange, up 5.9%, on Wednesday.

Zee has made the Centre the first respondent in its writ. BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, ESPN-Star and Pricewater-houseCoopers are the other respondents in the case. Hearing of the case is expected to begin on Friday, Zee officials said.

BCCI had filed a caveat in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, requesting the court not to pass any orders on the telecast issue without hearing the board, according to agencies.

The cricket rights issue took a new turn on Tuesday when BCCI cancelled the existing tender, after granting in-principle rights to Zee.

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