President APJ Abdul Kalam has promulgated the ordinance to deliver cricket matches, live and free, to millions of homes that have no access to cable television connections.
The presidential nod came late on Friday night, hours after Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi called on Kalam. The President is understood to have asked questions; ranging from how the Ordinance served public interest to the extent to which the money earned by Prasar Bharti would be utilised for promoting less popular sports.
Kalam got his answers.
For one, 18 of the 25 per cent revenue that will accrue to DD would be used to support other sports by spending this money to telecast their events and help them raise sponsorships. The cross-subsidy move is aimed at blunting criticism that Prasar Bharti would have an unfair advantage, making millions without risking a penny.
The India-Sri Lanka series starting February 8 will be the first major event to be impacted by the Ordinance. This time, cricket enthusiasts will not have to live with the seven-minute delay introduced for DD during the recent India-West Indies series.
The delay was introduced as an interim measure after the rights holder, Nimbus knocked at the Delhi High Court to challenge the government's guidelines that force them to share live feed of important sporting events.
Nimbus wasn't the first one. Similar petitions filed by other sports broadcasters like Ten Sports and ESPN-Star Sports are already pending in courts for a decision. The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Ordinance, 2007, has been drafted to help the government take the sting out their attack in courts. "Their main contention was that the guidelines that they had agreed to, did not have the force of a law. Now you cannot say that," a senior government functionary at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said.
The ordinance promulgated late on Friday night shall be "deemed to have come into force" on 11 November 2005 and the two guidelines for downlinking and uplinking channels - that are under challenge - shall be deemed to have been issued under the new law.
"No legal proceeding shall be maintained or continued in any court for the enforcement of any direction given by any court or any decree or order which would not have been given had the guidelines been validly in force at all material times," the ordinance said.
The law - that will come up for a vote in Parliament's budget session - also empowers the government to stipulate penalties for violators. This can include suspension and revocation of the license as well as a fine up to Rs 1 crore.