With the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) failing to prepare and provide most of the venues in time, the Games host broadcaster, Prasar Bharati, is racing against time to install and test the sophisticated equipment that it will use to cover the Games.
As per the earlier deadlines, Doordarshan was to get almost four months to install and test its equipment at each stadium as against the international norm of six months. However, due to delay in civil works, the public broadcaster will now get barely a month to complete the entire process. September 1 is the new, and perhaps the last, deadline to start testing the equipment.
"Delays have occurred at different levels," explained Prasar Bharati chief executive officer B.S. Lalli, who has written to OC chairperson Suresh Kalmadi regarding the impending dangers of the delays on overall Games broadcast.
"We have to make up for the delays of other agencies and have been forced to compress our timeline to execute the project," he said.
Prasar Bharati had got Rs 366 crore to upgrade its infrastructure and set up broadcasting centres compatible to high definition signal at 17 games venues two years ago.
The agency, whose Games budget has not been increased, has been forced to wait as the civil works at the stadiums, carried out by Sports ministry and other agencies, got delayed.
"Till Wednesday, the work at half these venues was still going on," said a senior Doordarshan official. At Karni Singh Shooting range, the Broadcasting Engineering Consultants India (BECIL) — agency carrying out work for DD — was to complete the work by June-end. BECIL got the site, that too partially, only on June 28. It was to finish all broadcast-related work by August 15 but now expects to do the same by mid-September.
Even at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games will be held, BECIL's deadline of August 15 to complete the work will be missed. Documents with HT show that the situation is no different at the Shyama Prasad Mukerjee stadium and Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium, where cycling and wrestling events will take place.
Even though BECIL had set up the initial infrastructure for the broadcasting centres, it cannot test whatever equipment has been installed in the absence of power supply.
On Wednesday, Doordarshan directed BECIL to hire power generators to run the equipment till the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) provides electricity supply.
Even thought senior DD officials say that "all is well", junior level official admit that the broadcaster is all set to be pushed to the wall.
"There is very little time to identify the errors and implement their remedies. We will be working in three shifts to ensure that equipment is in place by mid-September for testing. We will have less than 15 days to ensure a world-class broadcast whereas the international norm is that everything should be ready at least six months in advance," said a Doordarshan engineer who did not want to be quoted.
Lalli described the situation as one of concern and said that Doordarshan has been the worst-affected because of delays as it came at the end of the chain of the entire Games planning process.