The Indian government’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has re-opened a can of worms. The ministry last week proposed an amendment to a sports broadcasting act that India’s private broadcasters would not be very happy with.
If the amendment is accepted, Indian television viewers could soon watch sporting events of national importance, as stipulated by the Indian government, on public broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s Doordarshan television network across all terrestrial and direct-to-home platforms.
According to the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing With Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007, no private rights holder can telecast a “sporting event of national importance” live in India unless it simultaneously shares the signal – without any advertisements – with Prasar Bharati, so that the public broadcaster can re-transmit the same on its own terrestrial network and direct-to-home platform DD FreeDish.
Under this Act, Prasar Bharati is also not obligated to show the logo of the rights holder’s channel and can generate its own pre- and post-match programmes. The Act also forces the rights holder to share 25% of its television advertisement revenue with Prasar Bharati (50% in case of radio).
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has now proposed that Indian television viewers should be able to watch sporting events of national importance on Doordarshan on all terrestrial networks, DTH networks and other platforms where it is mandatory to broadcast these channels.
The ministry claimed, in its proposal, that viewers “who do not have DD FreeDish or Doordarshan’s terrestrial network are either unable to watch these sporting events of national importance or are compelled to watch these sporting events on highly priced sports channels and, thus, the very objective with which the Parliament had enacted the Sports Act, has been defeated”.
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India’s private sports broadcasters such as the Star Sports network and Sony Pictures Sports Network are unlikely to be pleased with this proposal, considering the amount of money they spend on media rights of sporting events, especially in cricket.
Star India last year acquired the media rights for the popular Indian Premier League in a five-year deal worth a record Rs 16,347 crore. Star India also purchased the media rights for the Indian cricket team’s home matches till 2023 for a record Rs Rs 6138.1 crore earlier this year.
The ministry has sought feedback and comments on this proposed amendment from its stakeholders and the general public within 30 days of the publication of the notice, which went up on October 17. The feedback/comments can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to: Under Secretary (BP&L), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Room No. 134, A Wing, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi – 110001.