The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) will probe the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s decision not to telecast the inaugural Twenty-20 cricket World Cup in 2007 in South Africa, terming the new format of the game as paijama cricket.
The ministry advised Doordarshan (DD) to ignore the tournament, held from September 11-24, 2007, which resulted in a financial loss to the national broadcaster.
On average, DD earns around Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 million) from such tournaments under the 75:25 revenue-sharing arrangement — stipulated by the law — in favour of the sports broadcasters, which hold the exclusive telecast rights for the events.
“An inquiry has been initiated and comments of the ministry has been sought,” said Pratyush Sinha, Chief Vigilance Commissioner of India. The probe decision follows a Delhi High Court direction in July 2009.
A month before the event in 2007, E S Isaac, then director (sports) in DD, asked the public broadcaster’s standing counsel in the Supreme Court, Rajeev Sharma, whether it can broadcast the T-20 World Cup under the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007.
Although T-20 cricket was not mentioned in the law, Sharma said the T-20 World Cup was definitely a sporting event of national importance. So, ESPN, which held exclusive global telecast rights, should share it with Prasar Bharati.
Just seven days before the event, the ministry overruled the legal opinion, saying the law only covered one-day international matches, and not T-20 matches.
It advised Prasar Bharati: “Twenty-20 cricket is a new form of experimental cricket for entertainment akin to paijama cricket. The Prasar Bharati is advised not to waste prime time for the live telecast of such 20-over matches of cricket, the popularity of which is yet to be established.”
A senior CVC official, who refused to be identified, said the inquiry would focus on whether the revenue loss was deliberate. After the inaugural tournament, however, the ministry amended the law to bring T-20 tournaments under the revenue-sharing arrangement.