The Indian TV rights saga October 27, 2005

ESPN unhappy with cabinet decision

Cricinfo staff

ESPN, the international sports channel, has shown its displeasure at the Indian government's order wherein all private broadcasters are to henceforth share telecast rights of all cricket matches involving India with Prasar Bharti, the state-owned broadcaster. Terming the decision as "extremely disheartening and not fair", ESPN has stated that it will affect the flow of proposed investments into India.

RC Venkateish, ESPN-Star Sports' managing director, is contemplating the next course of action, which might possibly include a legal challenge to the order. "We will have to look at what is notified before moving further on the issue. Legal option, if at all required, will be the very, very last option," he told Hindustan Times.

Last week, the cabinet had stated that "for ensuring the widest availability in India of national or international sporting events of national importance to be held in India, no television channel shall carry a live broadcast of whole or part of any event ... unless simultaneously Prasar Bharati has also been offered the terrestrial and DTH broadcasting rights."

The cabinet's decision will also affect all rights bagged prior to the notification of the order, a fact that irks Venkateish. "Nowhere in the world does a law exist like this ... This is not encouraging for private sports broadcasters," he said. "This is really a harsh view taken by the ministry, which is totally unnecessary."