The Supreme Court on Friday made a strong pitch for protecting the rights of people watching cricket on TV, saying, “Popularity of the game depends on the number of such people watching the game. Your (BCCI) earning is depending on them. Their interest has to be protected.”
The bench of Chief Justice of India TS Thakur and FMI Kalifulla, while hearing a plea from the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) that some of the Lodha Committee recommendations were difficult to implement, observed on Friday that even though people were watching the game on TV, their interest needed to be safeguarded.
“There is a person sitting in his drawing room… He doesn’t purchase a ticket to watch cricket match. But there is interest. Lodha Committee wants to protect that interest. “Do they (viewers) have a stake in the game or not?” asked Justice Thakur.
Though the Lodha panel’s focus is on age and tenure restriction, it has also recommended restricting TV ads during live telecast, which, it felt, was robbing viewers of thrilling moments of the game.
In its report submitted before the Supreme Court in January, the committee said, “Regardless of the wicket that has fallen, century having been hit or other momentous event, full liberty is granted to maximise the broadcaster’s income by cutting away to a commercial, thereby robbing sport of its most attractive attribute --- emotion.”
The Committee recommended that all existing contracts for Tests and ODIs be revised and new ones ensure that only breaks taken by teams for drinks, lunch and tea should be interrupted with advertisements, as is practised internationally.
Meanwhile, BCCI’s broadcast partner, Star India, has begun mounting pressure on the Board to renegotiate the contract.
“It may be relevant to mention that during these breaks, the viewers also turn off their TV sets to attend to their chores. Thus, if the recommendation was to be implemented, virtually all the commercial inventory that would be available to us under our agreement with the BCCI would either no longer be available or be of any meaningful value,” Star told BCCI in its e-mail in February.