19 December 2017
In what could be a blow to sports and entertainment channels, the government has imposed a fee of Rs 50,000 (on regional channels) and Rs 1 lakh (on national channels) per day for temporary uplinking of live events.
This essentially means that broadcasters of every live event, from the T20 cricket tournament Indian Premiere League to football and kabaddi leagues to other programmes that may be shown live on entertainment channels, will now have to pay Rs 50,000 or Rs 1 lakh per day, in line with recent order from the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry.
According to temporary uplinking guidelines, all non-news and current affairs channels are required to have temporary uplinking permission “for any live coverage/footage collection and transmission on case-to-case basis.” Up until now, the channels have not been paying any fee to the government.
“A simple permission was required till now to air live events. The imposition of this fee is a big overhead cost, which no channel accounted for while planning the future events,” said an executive at a broadcasting company, who did not want to be named.
The order, which came into effect on 13 December, will impact sports channels the most.
Television broadcaster Sony Pictures Network, which operates 11 sports channels, said that the move “could act as a deterrent to broadening viewership.”
“While the rationale for the new fee structure for temporary uplinking of live events is not clear, for example a sports channel uplinking a live sporting event ought not to be considered current affairs, there will be a financial cost, which could be significant if carried across several channels in different languages,” the company said in an emailed response to a query from Mint.
Another industry executive, who did not want to be identified, said: “It’s big blow to the sports broadcasters and not at all in line with government’s efforts to promote ease of doing business. This is a discouragement to smaller sports broadcasters, sports leagues and tournaments.”
“It is surprising that the ministry is creating such roadblocks to live telecast sporting events when the Prime Minister has made a clarion call to promote sports in India through Khelo India programme,” this person added.
India has five sports broadcasters—Star India, Sony Pictures Network, Discovery Communications, Nimbus Communications Ltd and state-owned Doordarshan.
Star India and Sony Pictures Network are the two dominant players with rights to popular sporting events. Star did not respond to a query from Mintseeking comment on the impact of the order.
While industry executives are sceptical of the government’s move, they also point to grey areas in the order.
First, the order doesn’t define the terms ‘regional channels’ and ‘national channels.’ According to the television uplinking and downlinking guidelines, there are only two categories of channels—news and current affairs, and non-news and current affairs channels.
“The uplinking and downlinking permissions of I&B ministry are pan-India licences. There is no clarity as to which channels will qualify as regional channels and on what basis. For instance, a Gujarati channel, though broadcast in Gujarati may be available nationally,” said the executive cited earlier.
Secondly, “the ministry only provides in-principle approval for live events coverage but the operational approvals are granted by WPC (Wireless Planning and Co-ordination wing) and NOCC (Networks Operation Control Centre) of DOT (Department of Telecommunications). The broadcasters already pay licence and royalty fee to WPC. The purpose of charging more money and the coordination between the three departments is not clear,” the person added.
The I&B ministry did not respond to an emailed query seeking clarifications on the order.
Meanwhile, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is working on a consultation paper on promoting ease of doing business in the broadcast sector and is expected to come out with its recommendations in a few weeks.
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