The government on Thursday decided to promulgate an ordinance making it mandatory for private broadcasters to share live feed of major sporting events with public broadcaster Prasar Bharti.
The ordinance, aimed at giving the government’s controversial 2005 guidelines firm legal backing, comes after broadcasters like Nimbus refused to share feed of important sporting events with Doordarshan (DD) and AIR.
The ordinance is expected to be in place ahead of the India-Sri Lanka series beginning February 8, and will come into force with retrospective effect from November 11, 2005, when the government notified the downlinking guidelines.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said all one-day internationals played in India and abroad, and Test matches played at home, would be covered by the ordinance. Broadcasters would have to share only the highlights of Tests played abroad.
Dasmunsi also announced a technical committee — with representatives from the BCCI, broadcasters, and Prasar Bharti — to look into the issue of encryption of signals to prevent piracy.
The government’s decision is clearly good news for viewers in non-cable homes across India. But there were mixed reactions from sports broadcasters.
Nimbus chief Harish Thawani said he would comment only after going through the ordinance, but pointed out that it was bound to "impact the commercial viability of sports broadcasting". Himanshu Mody, business head of Zee Sports, said it would have have negative implications for players like Nimbus and ESPN who have paid large sums for broadcasting rights.
Welcoming the move, C Venkatesh, managing director, ESPN, said the government had at least allowed broadcasters to retain exclusivity over Test matches played abroad.