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Cricket is of “national importance”

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The Government of India, taking some precious time out from watching third-rate British TV shows to save the honor of fourth-rate Bollywood stars, has declared that cricket is of "national importance". 

The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved an ordinance that makes it mandatory for private broadcasters to share live feed, without advertisements, of sporting events of national importance with public broadcaster, Prasar Bharati’s Doordarshan and All India Radio.

The government will introduce a Bill in the Budget Session of Parliament to make the ordinance a law.

This ordinance applies to matches in India and abroad. A committee will be formed comprising members of Prasar Bharati and the Board of Control for Cricket in India to determine the technical feasibility of feed encryption, which restricts the DD feed to India.(link)

And marvel over  this:

"It will now be obligatory for every content-right owner and TV and radio broadcasting service provider to share their live telecast signal without its advertisements for such sporting events as prescribed by the government," said broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi. (link)

(By the by, PR Dasmunshi, is the gentleman responsible for single-handedly guiding Indian soccer from at least a moderate Asian force to its current 14th from the bottom ranking, a few notches above football powerhouses like Afghanistan and Brunei Darrusalam)

It’s not a long stretch to interpret ‘sporting events’ as ‘cricket’, or more accurately, One Day International cricket, since the five day test matches are obviously too popular and would thereby reduce our national productivity.

But the Test matches would not be shown live.

However, for Test matches, the government has said live feed would be required only for matches played in India while for those played abroad, the highlights would be sufficient.

The impetus for this kind of law-making stems from the fact that a private media company, Nimbus Communications has paid BCCI the rights (in an open bid) for all cricket matches involving India. Nimbus is telecasting these matches through a paid channel not available to a large section of the Indian populace.

As the Eminent Blogger says – such a law is simply government-sanctioned robbery (I also like the IBNLive headline "All matches our property: Govt makes ordinance"). Doordarshan will put in zilch effort, and gain 25% of ad-revenues, which given its reach, is going to be monumental for most cricket matches. As Sambit Bal, wrote in an excellent article for Cricinfo, on the wrangling over broadcast rights with Nimbus:

Nimbus paid a hefty $612 million for the rights and is entitled to fight to protect its territory. Doordarshan has paid nothing, and has nothing to lose. Every rupee it can earn from televising the matches is a bonus. Yet it has chosen, either through sheer negligence and incompetence or because of arrogance and greed, or quite possibly a mix of all the above, not to comply with a reasonable request to encrypt the live feed to ensure that it isn’t freely available for redistribution by cable operators in India and other satellite networks abroad.

The government on the other hand is seemingly saying that watching sports is a public right. Now, it can be argued that for sporting events played in Indian cities, in stadiums and facilities paid for by the Indian tax-payer, the latter does have some right to watch such events [1]. However, as far as my knowledge goes, BCCI is a non-governmental organization that runs on its own, through self-generated revenue. Local cricket stadiums are built by state-associations funded by BBCI. And of course, any such right is moot for games played on foreign soil. If the government is so concerned about people watching cricketsporting events, it should have gotten its act together and made a bid for broadcast rights in the first place. And why the mandate that Doordarshan can carry is own advertisements – that simply smacks of opportunism ?

 Eventually, if there aren’t enough homes in India that can watch live cricket due to the absence of the paid-channel, shouldn’t the popularity of cricket decline anyway ? This in turn should force the cricket board to do something about it.

Anyhow, it is probably good news in a sense – since cricket is now of national importance, the Indian government is obligated to ensure that none of its citizens are deprived from watching the team in action. Therefore, I am sure they will arrange for for the forthcoming World Cup in the Carribeans to be shown free for citizens here in the US. This will teach a lesson to those capitalist pigs, DiretcTV, who want $200 of my hard-earned post-doc money.


[1]: There is indeed a similar debate in the United States, where DirectTV, a paid satellite provider holds the rights to broadcast all of the American football matches. Only matches of local interest are shown on free-to-air channels. In this case, even though the football league and the teams are privately owned, the games are played on tax-payer subsidized stadiums.

Thanks to Rohit for inputs.

UPDATE: Homer makes a good point: the on-going Ranji Trophy Championship finals between Mumbai and Bengal, featuring players such as Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Sourav Ganguly etc., has been deemed not "nationally importan" enough by the venerable Doordarshan.

Also, posts by Nitin, Jagasdish, Gaurav and Yossarin on the topic.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

February 1, 2007 at 9:54 am

Posted in Cricket, Economics, India, Rants

11 Responses

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  1. […] is unhappy with the government’s decision to force private broadcasters to share the feed of sporting events with PrasarBharti. The government on the other hand is seemingly saying that watching sports is a public right. Now, […]

  2. […] the shit’s already hitting the fan in India, watch this space for more info on the Australian […]

  3. I don’t believe this. It is high time that the Information & Broadcasting Ministry be scrapped if it indulges in such overreaching activities. Personally, I believe that Doordarshan and Prasar Bharati should be run on the lines of PBS i.e. donations only and not the tax payer money. Make the I&B Minister be answerable to the donors and let him be sacked if he doesn’t perform.

    The more liberalized we seem to become, the more socialist our government wants to be.


    February 1, 2007 at 1:29 pm

  4. Patrix: Certainly a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our government – what with parliamentarians getting involved in cricket (remember the post-Durban drubbing brouhaha) and Shilpa Shetty and what not.


    February 1, 2007 at 6:09 pm

  5. […] those rights, can go and clean the attic. Predictably this move has raised hackles of certain overfed and heartless capitalists. I am aghast at this reaction to say the least, and will try my best to […]

  6. […] The fact that the market value of broadcasting rights has shot through the roof indicates, well, just how valuable they are. Prasar Bharati is either incapable or unwilling to pay the market price, resulting in its viewers not having access to live cricket. The UPA government decided that this is a bad thing and ordered private broadcasters (who paid for the rights) to “share live feed, without advertisements” with the state-owned broadcaster. Thus Prasar Bharati not only gets the live feed free of cost, it can also make money by selling airtime to advertisers. The UPA may call this policy. A more appropriate word for it is robbery. [See BongoPondit’s take] […]

  7. Likely that this would not get past the courts. So while the battle rages in the court rooms, we can wait, watch & blog


    February 2, 2007 at 4:35 am

  8. What makes it even worse is the ad-free feed and the 75-25 rev share. This makes it bloody obvious that DD had no intention of ever bidding. DD’s reach doesn’t matter. If it did, it would have bidded.

    S Jagadish

    February 2, 2007 at 10:26 am

  9. Public interest is fine but one cannot just infrigne upon the rights of private broadcasters in such an arbitrary manner- I thought after 1992 we were following “liberalization” and the current PM was the architect of that. This is just cheap populism, nothing else.


    February 2, 2007 at 12:21 pm

  10. hello and thanks a ton for so many valid points discussed in your article..
    iam doing an assignment in sports and anti siphoning laws and this page was of grt help. if you people have more on this topic pls do mail me .

    thanks & regards


    March 1, 2007 at 2:28 am

  11. Hey, I just wanted to say what a brilliant website. I really enjoyed it and found it entertaining reading. Anticipating your next post!

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    January 19, 2010 at 8:28 pm

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