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Share or stay out, TV channels told

15-August-2005
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Share or stay out, TV channels told

Sharing of broadcast feed will be on the basis of certain commercial considerations.

Television channels not willing to share broadcast feed with Prasar Bharati for events of national importance will not be allowed to beam to India.

According to information and broadcasting ministry officials, this clause is likely to be present in the uplinking and downlinking policy guidelines being finalised by the government. The guidelines will also contain a list of events of national importance, which is expected to include cricket matches involving India.

Thus a broadcaster holding the rights to a cricket world cup will not be allowed to operate its channel in India unless it agrees to share the feed with state-run Prasar Bharati. The same could apply to Olympic games.

But, the sharing of broadcast feed will be on the basis of certain commercial considerations. The government is looking into a number of issues like the revenue sharing ratio, on who should market events and the modalities for Prasar Bharati acquiring rights.

The broadcast policy is now being examined by a group of ministers (GoM) headed by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The GoM includes Information and Broadcasting Minister S Jaipal Reddy, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Law Minister HR Bharadwaj.

The idea of sharing feed has not gone down well with private broadcasters, which are of the opinion that the move will bring down the overall value of the sports broadcasting business.

They have said not just advertising revenue but subscription revenue will also be affected severely if this happens. They also anticipate legal wrangles, leading to a cut in the valuation of the sports broadcasting business.

On the other hand, the government thinks that this move will benefit the broadcasting sector as it will expand the number of viewers. Hence, the overall valuation of events will go up.

According to the original plan of the government, it only wanted to block the broadcast of specific events in the country, in case a broadcaster did not agree to share its feed with Prasar Bharati.

However, the current view in the government favours a broad understanding with private broadcasters on the issue before the uplinking and downlinking policies are finalised. The policies have provisions of mandatory sharing of content with the public broadcaster.

The government proposes to set up a committee that will list events that private broadcasting companies will have to share with Prasar Bharati. The committee will consist of officials from the ministries of information and broadcasting and sports, Prasar Bharati officials, private broadcasters and marketing agencies.

Private broadcasters, on their part, have suggested that Prasar Bharati should have the option to acquire live terrestrial rights for all One-Day Internationals involving India, within the country and outside, from a rights holder.

AT LOGGERHEADS

Government view:

Give feed to Prasar Bharati or close shop

Sharing of feed will be done on commercial considerations

Sharing of feed will help increase the value of sports broadcasting

Private broadcasters:

Sharing the feed will cut the value of sports broadcasting

Advertising and subscription revenues will fall

Legal wrangles will emerge

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