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Broadcast ministry wants probe

After road and sports infrastructure projects, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) will now investigate a deal between Prasar Bharati and UK based company SIS Live to find whether the company has been unduly favoured.

delhi Updated: Oct 27, 2010 00:32 IST
Chetan Chauhan

After road and sports infrastructure projects, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) will now investigate a deal between Prasar Bharati and UK based company SIS Live to find whether the company has been unduly favoured.

SIS Live had bagged the Rs 246 crore contract to broadcast the 13-day games on high definition but has now been accused of tax evasion and getting the agreement altered at the last minute to make more money.

Prasar Bharati chief executive officer BS Lalli had approved the changes without taking Information and Broadcasting ministry's approval.

The controversy, which had emerged on Monday, took a new turn on Tuesday with Prasar Bharati Corporation chairperson Mrinal Pande stating that details of the Host Broadcast Management Committee (HBMC) meeting, where the changes were approved, were not shared with the board - the highest policy framing committee of the corporation.

Lalli headed the HBMC, which reduced the notice period in the termination clause from 45 to 30 days, enabling SIS Live to threaten a walk out from the contract before start of the games.

Another clause introduced, without the ministry's approval, was on liquidation, which allowed the network to claim damages for whatever investments it had made for production of the games, in case of termination of the contract.

Considering the magnitude of the discrepancies in the final agreement, the ministry on Tuesday asked CAG to look into the issue.

"The files pertaining to selection of SIS Live and other documents have been given to CAG for examination," an official said.

The ministry decision came after Lalli tried to drag Soni's name in the controversy stating that the minister had approved of the deal and the ministry was in loop on all issues related to broadcast of the games. Leave alone the ministry, even the Prasar Bharati board was not informed about the changes.

Lalli's contention fell flat with Pande stating that the finance department had objected to the deal with SIS Live and the CEO never issues any clarification on this to the board. Lalli dismissed the concerns raised by the chairperson.

There are also allegations that Prasar Bharati extended some favours to SIS Live, after it threatened to walkout, which were not covered in the contract.