India v England, 1st ODI, Hyderabad October 14, 2011

Delayed start to India-England broadcast

ESPNcricinfo staff

Television audiences in India and England were deprived of the first three overs of the opening match of the five-match ODI series between the two teams in Hyderabad, as well as the conventional pre-match programming. The 15-minute blackout of live feed came about as the result of a dispute over the payment of a bank guarantee from broadcaster Neo Sports, a part of Nimbus Communications Ltd, to Prasar Bharati, the government agency responsible for uplinking live telecasts out of India. In a statement released at the end of the Indian innings, Neo Sports stated that an "unreasonable demand" from Prasar Bharti had caused the delay in the uplinking facilities being made available to them.

Early on in the telecast, the delay had been put down to "technical issues" but NeoCricket's mid-match statement alleged that the 2.5-over blackout took place because Prasar Bharati had demanded the payment of a bank guarantee far earlier than had originally been agreed upon in a draft agreement. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in New Delhi, which oversees Prasar Bharati, only approved the uplinking facilties just before the start of the first ball.

The lack of television feed meant that for the first 15 minutes of the match there were no live pictures from the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad to Neo Cricket, the rights holders, to Doordarshan for terrestrial coverage in India, to Sky TV in Britain as well as to the BCCI's website, which promised live streaming. This was India's first fixture at home both after their World Cup victory as well as the disastrous tour of England.

Neo Cricket's coverage during that period of that match involved a studio chat with Venkatesh Prasad and Paul Collingwood as experts and a ticker running at the bottom of the screen stating that there was "no coverage due to technical issues".

There was also an issue about Sky TV's own commentators awaiting what one Sky commentator told ESPNcricinfo were "government clearances", before being able to broadcast live out of India. As a result, the Sky TV producers made use of the Neo Cricket commentary team including Matthew Hoggard and Dermot Reeve.

According to Neo, there was a change in the agreement involving the date of payment of a bank guarantee of Rs 4 crores (approximately US $813,000) from the broadcaster to Prasar Bharati. Under the draft agreement between the two signed on October 12, 2011, Neo was required to submit the bank guarantee within five days of signing the formal agreement. "It was expected that the agreement would be signed on the 13th or 14th and thus the BG [bank guarantee] would be submitted on the 19th or 20th of October 2011 (i.e. 5 dates after signing)," Neo said in the statement.

Neo states that at 7pm on the night before the Hyderabad ODI, the ministry of information and broadcasting, Prasar Bharati's parent ministry, sent a letter stating that uplink permission would be granted to Neo only after it submitted a bank guarantee before the start of the first ODI. After failing to get an extension on the payment of bank guarantee following a meeting in Delhi, Neo states that it paid the entire bank guarantee to Prasar Bharati at 12:37 pm on Friday. The uplink licence was issued to BCCI and Neo Cricket, "past the match start time of 2:30 pm today resulting in no coverage for the first few balls of the Event."

In its statement, Neo said it intends to approach the government to request the framing of "appropriate" and "equitable and reasonable" rules with regard to the sharing of revenues from the telecast of live events in India.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in a letter to the BCCI that Neo was denied the live telecast "for the non-compliance of the provisions of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (mandatory sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act 2007 and the rules thereon."

The letter went on to say: "It has now been confirmed that M/s Neo Broadcast Private Ltd has handed over two bank drafts of the amount Rs 4,00,50,000/- to Doordarshan with an undertaking that M/s Neo Broadcast Private Ltd will submit a bank guarantee equal to this amount by October 21, 2011."

This is not the first time Neo and Prasar Bharati have sparred over the issue of payments. In 2007, Neo filed a lawsuit over the government's uplinking guidelines that made it mandatory for all sports channels to share their feeds with Prasar Bharati for sporting events of national importance. The court ruled in Prasar Bharati's favour and Neo was forced to share its feed, albeit with a seven-minute delay.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Big on October 16, 2011, 16:40 GMT

    Was the due to dispute with ECB?

  • Roy on October 15, 2011, 22:30 GMT

    I didn't miss the predictable Sky commentary team one bit. Prefer TMS any day of the week as usually turn the Sky lot off but have to say the commentary team on duty had an impressive line up - with former class batsmen, pace bowler, spinner and allrounders - a good spread of knowledge. Hoggard certainly not the best but at least he can bring the view of a current player.

  • Dummy4 on October 15, 2011, 17:21 GMT

    The Neo sports team were woeful. Hoggard was barely able to string a sentence together. Very suprised to hear little about the fact that the Sky team were not allowed to commentate on the game. Fear of upsetting the BCCI??

  • Dummy4 on October 15, 2011, 9:45 GMT

    I thought Dermot Reeve & Mat Hoggard were excellent....a wonderfully refreshing change from the cliche riden montrones of Botham, Hussain & Holding, who think they are too self important than they actually are. Any chance sky will take on Reeve & Hoggard permenantly ?

  • Rakesh on October 15, 2011, 7:07 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster - u shoudl listen to ian chappel, mark taylor and co from Oz. Even if Aussies dropa sitter they will justify that by giving reasons. Even during champions league ian was aussies this, aussies that. English still support quality cricket barring few most are good.

  • Dummy4 on October 15, 2011, 5:25 GMT

    How can i miss the first 15 minutes.I was in stadium so i didnt miss.Well those were pretty boring overs.

  • Ramesh on October 15, 2011, 5:17 GMT

    BBC Radio 5 was giving live audio commentry on their website from the beginning of the match. It was quite good and even after the Neo cricket broadcast started, I kept the BBC 5 on and the combination was good.

  • Manesh on October 15, 2011, 3:55 GMT

    even they lost connection with Ganguly in the post-match discussion....

  • sankar on October 15, 2011, 3:28 GMT

    What a SHAME! These things can happen only in India! Ridiculous.......

  • Cricinfouser on October 14, 2011, 21:29 GMT

    I still love good old TMS more than anything. In the old days I would watch it on the TV but listen to the radio commentary - but that's almost impossible now as there's a delay on the digital TV images, so the commentary is about 2 balls ahead! There was another issue with Sky today, as they were not allowing this match to be watched via Sky Go (where subscribers can watch online) - very controversial and no reason given!!

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