All India Radio director general Brijeshwar Singh will head a 12-member Joint Group of Experts to explore sports broadcasting regulations. The committee has been appointed in the light of the ordinance that has made it mandatory for sports broadcasters to share their live feed with Doordarshan.
The group, appointed by the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, has a month to come up with a report.
This follows a Union Cabinet decision to define the road map for signal encryption for Doordarshan, and is a sequel to complaints by Nimbus before the Delhi High Court that DD live cricket signals are being pirated. The committee will include representatives from BCCI, broadcasters, and Prasar Bharti officials.
"The Group will identify the technical parameters and propose a course of action for suitably regulating the sports broadcasting signals," the Ministry said.
The high power group's official terms of reference including encrypting the DD signal for terrestrial redistribution, issues relating to Prasar Bharati's free-to-air direct-broadcast satellite signals and other technical matters.
While DD officials have been pleading that the encryption process, involving installation of set top boxes in as many as 400 terrestrial head-ends, would take up to 6 months, Nimbus has been pressing for a changeover in two weeks time.
The cabinet decision has indicated that the feed supplied by the private broadcaster to Doordarshan must be embargoed for its own network and should not be re-routed to DTH operators.
Welcoming the ordinance, Nimbus chairman Harish Thawani said: “A regulated framework is good for the industry. Even if the encryption process takes 6 months, we are in long term business and protection from piracy is welcome.”
Other sports broadcasters had mixed reactions towards the ordinance. Himanshu Mody, Business Head of Zee Sports, said: “We saw it coming and are not surprised. Though we don’t have the details, at first look it seems it will have negative implications for players like Nimbus and ESPN who have paid hefty amounts to get broadcasting rights for big sports events.”
ESPN Software MD RC Venkateish, on the other hand, welcomed the move. “It is a good via media. It will help attain a right balance between public and private interest. We have always shared whatever we had with DD- however we only objected to everything being shared including Test Matches. With the ordinance in place, all matches in India – Test as well as ODI, will be shared with DD, while for matches played abroad, only the ODIs will be shared.”
ESPN Star Sports recently won the Worldwide ICC cricket rights for a record $1.1bn for the 2007-2015 period.