BCCI plans to share radio rights with Prasar Bharati

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | Ashish Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 29 2011, 06:31am hrs
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is planning to unbundle radio broadcasting rights from television rights after it was pulled up by the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry last week. Sources said senior BCCI officials will soon take up the matter with Neo Sports, the TV and radio rights holder, and its parent Nimbus, the production house. Whatever steps are required to make radio signals available to Prasar Bharati will be taken, said a source in BCCI.

So far, BCCI has bundled various media rights for international and domestic cricket tournaments held in the country to maximise returns. Unbundling of radio broadcast rights from TV rights may prompt a complete re-look at the existing commercial agreements between Nimbus and BCCI, sources said.

During the recent India-England one-day international (ODI) cricket series, public broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) did not get radio signals from Nimbus and BCCI for the first three matches, though AIR had offered $6,000 per ODI. Millions of cricket enthusiasts tuning into AIR were disappointed, prompting the I&B ministry to step in.

In a strongly-worded letter to the BCCI, the ministry said radio signals were not covered by the Sports Act and, therefore, there are no provisions for its broadcast on private FM channels or a 50:50 revenue sharing arrangement with Prasar Bharati. Therefore, BCCI should directly engage with the government so as to provide the radio rights to AIR on an agreed fees, it told BCCI.

A letter from the I&B ministry to BCCI was initiated after Neo Sports refused to share radio signals with AIR recently during the India-England ODI series, senior government officials said.

Currently, none of the private FM radio stations are allowed to broadcast live commentary or news bulletins under the FM-II radio policy.

However, under the proposed FM-III policy guidelines, it is proposed that private FM stations will get to air news and current affairs shows sourced from AIR, but not live sports broadcasting.

Live coverage of sporting events of national importance may go to AIR's own network of radio stations including the FM radio stations and this is the reason the government wants the radio broadcast rights for cricket matches played in India to be unbundled and made available to the public broadcaster, sources said.