For the first time in the history of All India Radio, listeners are unlikely to listen to live commentary from a cricket World Cup. Instead, the Prasar Bharati is planning to have its commentators comment off television.
The decision to save money and not send anyone to the West Indies has caused a lot of heartburn because it would signal a hugely significant break from tradition. Traditionally, transistor-wielding AIR listeners across the country have been the first to get the latest cricket updates, but they will now be last to know what's happening.
"The TV feed is anyway a few seconds late and if our commentators are asked to commentate off TV, it will obviously be further delayed," said a senior AIR employee, on condition of anonymity.
"As a public broadcaster, it is our duty to reach millions around the country. Money doesn't come into the picture. In any case, we're supposed to make approximately Rs 2 crore (as per their own estimate) in revenue from advertisements during the World Cup," the official added.
However, AIR's Deputy Director General (Commercial) AK Padhi told HT that while the proposal was to have people commentate by watching TV, "nothing has been finalised so far". He said the lack of marketability of the event made things difficult for AIR. He rubbished the 2 crore-profit figure, saying it was difficult to "sell 35 matches of differing importance". "The market potential for all the games is simply not there and if you factor in the night timings, it makes it tougher".
Meanwhile, officials also said that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had been kept in the dark. It would be interesting to see what take the I&B Ministry, which has insisted that private TV channels showing India matches share feed with Doordarshan as a public broadcaster, has on this issue.