TV-rights dispute stops screening of series

A dispute over the TV rights for the current Pakistan-New Zealand one-day series blacked out the first match, at Lahore yesterday (Nov 29).

A row between the state-owned Pakistan Television (PTV) and the private channel GEO blocked any live coverage - it was the first time since 1967 that an international match in Pakistan had not been televised anywhere.

A GEO official told the AFP news agency: "We have the rights to broadcast the series live on television, but some of the PTV people felt that it's their right only. It has deprived millions of people from watching the match, it's disappointing."

But a PTV official blamed GEO for the blackout. "They have their equipment on the ground but not provided us the feed for the live coverage."

GEO, which is based in Dubai, apparently acquired the rights for the five-match one-day series from the Pakistan Cricket Board for US$500,000 dollars. PTV objected, maintaining the rights were awarded without any proper bidding. Akhtar Viqar Azeem, PTV's managing director, claimed late on Friday that a memorandum of understanding had been signed between GEO and PTV under which only PTV would televise the matches.

The matter is set to be resolved urgently - the next match is tomorrow, also at Lahore - with a suggestion that Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, might intervene personally to settle the dispute. It is a similar story to one enacted in India recently, when the state broadcaster Doordarshan won the rights to screen home internationals ahead of a satellite broadcaster.

All this meant that Wisden Cricinfo and Willow TV will not be able to stream the matches live on the internet as we had hoped. We apologise to our many disappointed customers, but would like to stress that the problems were beyond our control.