Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Even as one talks about the market forces hitting India, the Licence-Permit Raj days are not over in the true sense of the term. Nimbus a private agency got the rights to broadcast cricket in India after being the highest bidder. It outbid even the likes of EspnStar and Zee Sports. The state controlled broadcaster, Prasar Bharati was not even a bidder, if my memory serves me right. Nimbus started a television channel Neo Sports to telecast, among other things, cricket.

But things did not go smoothly as soon as India took on the West Indies. People were angry since not many could watch the first two matches live as if our lives depended on cricket. Make no mistake; I am a big follower of the wonderful game. But this is ludicrous.

Not to be cowed down by the market dynamics, the Information and Broadcasting Minister went on the airwaves threatening action to make Nimbus see reason. Matters went to the judiciary and Doordarshan (the state television) was allowed to telecast the match after a delay of 7 minutes. We watched ‘live’ scores on news channels and the ‘deferred live’ on Doordarshan.

Soon after the series was over, the Union Cabinet met and the wise people came out with an Ordinance. This Ordinance would become a law once the Parliament is in session. With this, it is now imperative for private broadcasters to share the live feeds of ‘important’ sporting events in ‘public interest’.

Luckily, or unluckily, the Minister made no efforts to make Channel 4 telecast the show ‘Big Brother’ for many Indians felt offended (incorrectly) over the so-called ‘racist’ remarks against an Indian actress.

Thankfully, the Minister did not feel the need to put this new piece of Legislation in the 9th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. That would have a whole new meaning to the concept of the ‘welfare state’.

So the lessons have to be learnt and quickly. No private broadcaster should ever bid for the rights to telecast cricket in India. If at all, the rights are secured after payments of millions, free feeds have to be given to Doordarshan.

In the Mahabharata, Dhritarashtra wanted to know the details of the epic war fought out between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The problem was the king was blind. This made his aide Sanjaya narrate the war ‘live’ using Doordarshan. The Information and Broadcasting Minister wants Indians to be glued to the television watching cricket. The reason- we all are blind and oblivious to every other thing that takes place.

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12:20 AM


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