Hundreds of cricket fans in India would be alien to action in the India-South Africa cricket series as the matches will not be available on All India Radio, for the first time in AIRs' history, and even on Doordarshan, which has now given up on acquiring the broadcast rights.
The satellite radio service, World Space Radio, has got exclusive radio rights for the matches, though the commentary would be in Afrikaan English, an accent distinct to most Indians.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials said talks between ESPN-Star Sports and Prasar Bharati broke down earlier this week, resulting in the present stalemate. Except cable homes, where the matches would be available on ESPN-Star Sports bouquet, for most keeping track of matches may not be possible.
World Space Radio has a limited market in India as compared to AIR's reach of 99 per cent of the country. Moreover, the officials say, the commentary on AIR used to be in Hindi or English, easily understandable in rural and urban population.
Prasar Bharati officials told HT that the agreement could not be reached with ESPN-Star Sports, as they were demanding very 'high' money for sharing the feed. RC Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN, told HT that they were under no obligation to share the telecast of matches, as Prasar Bharati had not complied with the downlinking guidelines earlier.
Under the guidelines, it is mandatory for the broadcasters to share the feed of matches involving India with Doordarshan on 75:25 revenue sharing model, in favour of the broadcaster.
RC Venkateish, however, said, "the rules cannot singularly apply to us as in the past Prasar Bharati had allowed Zee Sports and Ten Sports to telecast cricket matches exclusively". Earlier, ESPN had gone to the High Court to get a stay order on the mandatory sharing of feed with regard to India-South Africa series but the court refused to accord a stay on the guidelines.
While Prasar Bharati is thinking of taking action against ESPN Star sports for not sharing the feed, the ministry officials say, no official communication has come. "Action can be taken against the broadcasters as per downlinking guidelines notified last year. That may take some time," a Prasar Bharati official informed.
Ministry officials, however, said not sharing the feed with Prasar Bharati might be history as the government has decided to bring in a law to implement the guidelines. "It was Doordarshan and AIR that popularised cricket in India and when the time to earn profit came, the exclusive rights have been handed over to private broadcasters. This is not just," an official explained.