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February 14, 2013
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has decided to abandon its radio commentary of the India-Australia Test series because of issues over radio rights. The ABC had called off its original plans to cover the series live from India after failing to reach a deal with the rights holders Star Group.
Explaining the decision not to send a full commentary team to India, the ABC's manager of Grandstand Sport, Craig Norenbergs, said in an official statement, "The ABC undertakes a rigorous review of all international sporting events and associated costs and unfortunately, as in the case of this tour, we are unable to send a complete team."
According to the Star Group, however, the decision over the radio rights was yet to be decided. "Star India are in negotiations with various interested parties regarding radio coverage in Australia," a spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo. "We hope to close a deal shortly and wish to clarify that the BCCI has no role in these negotiations."
The impasse over radio rights between rights holders and a traditional Australian broadcaster has led to a situation where Australian listeners will not have access to free-to-air live radio commentary of a major cricket series. This void is being filled in by internet commentary providers, like the London-based Test Match Sofa, which is offering free online audio commentary for the India series off television pictures.
In addition to the withdrawal of the ABC's full commentary team, Jim Maxwell, the ABC's veteran correspondent, was unable to gain BCCI accreditation to report from within the grounds, because ABC had not bought radio rights to the series. While Fox Sports will broadcast the series on television to fee-paying subscribers within Australia, the withdrawal of ABC meant there would be no free-to-air audio service for listeners in Australia.
Ahead of the India-England series late last year, similar fees were demanded of television broadcasters Sky and radio broadcasters BBC for on-ground coverage.
The BBC's fees were met by a third party - a company called Cricket Radio, which had bought the radio rights for the England series from Star, but Sky refused to pay. The series was covered from the Sky studio in London, with pictures from the BCCI-produced world feed.
It was not possible to formally confirm the details of the radio commentary costs involved with Star, but it is understood that India's national radio broadcaster All India Radio pays between $3000 to $4000 per Test in India for live radio commentary. Over a five-Test series in India, the total sum for the purchase of live radio commentary rights falls between US$15,000 and US$20,000.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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