Hockey may be India’s national sport, but the national broadcaster Prasar Bharati did not provide live radio commentary on the first day of the World Cup the country is hosting. Reason: Prasar Bharati did not manage to buy the broadcast rights for radio from Star India.
Since private radio entities are not allowed to broadcast news or live sports, fans who may have wished to follow the hockey World Cup matches live on radio are left in the lurch.
“We don’t have any access to the rights,” Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati confirmed to The Indian Express, which is why they are not broadcasting the World Cup matches live on All India Radio, “as of now”.
Vempati said that in “every one of these situations” regarding buying rights for an event, the public broadcaster looks at “what is the cost of acquisition” and “what is the likely revenue” that it can earn from it. “Wherever it makes sense,” keeping in mind the “revenue potential” and acquisition cost, “we are able to air it,” he said.
In cases where “the cost of the acquisition that are proposed by the rights-holder is high, and we don’t see as much revenue potential,” the event is not broadcast.
Regarding the possibility of AIR being able to provide live commentary for the rest of the World Cup, Vempati said it “depends” as the “time is short” now. “Even if, let’s say, the cost comes to an accessible level , it’s probably too late, time is short, we may not realise the revenue,” he stated. He did not disclose the price quoted by Star, the rights-holder across all international markets barring Argentina, as the negotiation is an “ongoing process”.
At a meeting in the first week of November, sources aware of the matter told The Indian Express that Star India had asked for a per match fee of Rs 2 lakh, while Prasar Bharati had offered to buy the rights for Rs. 25,000 per match for 15 matches, which was declined by the rights-holder.
High-ranking sources in Prasar Bharati, however, put the blame of the failure to access the rights on the delay in the negotiation process, and the lack of ‘content’ people at decision-making levels within the public broadcaster. “At the top level of decision making there is no content creator,” a source said. The source added that since December 2017, sports, along with a few other divisions of AIR, are being directly handled by the Prasar Bharati secretariat.
The process to discuss acquisition of radio broadcast rights of the World Cup, the source said, had started in February this year, and the rights-holder was contacted around May, but they got back only around September. The source explained that for events like the World Cup, the broadcast rights owned by international sporting bodies are sold as a bundle, even though the law does not allow private parties to provide live radio broadcast of such events.
The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act of 2007 states that private broadcasters must share their signals for sports events of national significance. But it applies only to Doordarshan. As private broadcasters cannot have a live show on radio, there aren’t any broadcast signals that can be shared with AIR, and the public broadcaster has to negotiate and buy radio rights from them. Star India did not respond to an email seeking a response.