News channels decide to boycott IPL matches

NEW DELHI: The confrontation between broadcasters and IPL reached a flashpoint on Tuesday with the News Broadcasters Association, the body of top news channels, announcing that all its members would boycott the IPL.

Talks between IPL and official broadcaster SET Max, on the one hand, and the news channel, on the other, broke down when IPL/SET Max refused to consider any of the issues raised by NBA and said the terms set down by them for coverage were non-negotiable.

This means there will be no surround sound about IPL matches on TV channels, although the game itself would be telecast by SET Max. This is bound to reduce the buzz around the IPL tournament as news channels not only report the matches, but also analyse the games.

IPL chairman Lalit Modi did not respond to calls or messages. But he tweeted, ‘‘News channels never had rights to broadcast IPL. Those are exclusively SET Max. You will see all matches on Set live…You can get regular news of all IPL related stories as they happen on’’

The NBA, which represents 34 news channels, is opposed to the new terms that are more stringent than those set down by IPL in 2008, the last time IPL was played in India. The new terms have slashed the amount of time footage can be shown to just 7 minutes in a day, stipulated that nothing can be shown until 30 minutes after the post-match prize distribution ceremony, and set down certain ownership restrictions for channels.

For instance, the new terms say that unless the sole business of the owner of a news channel is production of news, that channel will not qualify as a news channel. The NBA has found these clauses restrictive and an unwarranted interference with the working of the media.

Tuesday’s meeting, it is learnt, began on a bad note as the IPL/Set Max representative came very late for the scheduled meeting and then brushed aside all objections. ‘‘We were left with no option but to say that in the circumstances, we will not cover the IPL,’’ said an editor.

The NBA statement said: ‘‘In view of this position unilaterally taken by IPL/Set Max, members of the NBA are unable to offer to their viewers any coverage in relation to IPL or its proposed matches.’’ It regretted the ‘‘inconvenience’’ to viewers but put the blame squarely on IPL/Set Max for its ‘‘unreasonable commercial approach’’.

IPL is scheduled to be held between March 12 to April 25. In previous years, the IPL attracted TRP ratings of an astounding 9.81 for the 2008 final while it got 9.29 in the 2009 final. For the 2010 edition, Sony has sold advertising spots for an estimated Rs 2 lakh for 10 seconds while regular and presenting sponsors have shelled out 25%-30%.

Media sources said that the Set Max had expressed concern that the 2008 guidelines had not been adhered to by some broadcasters who screened footage indiscriminately causing a ‘‘major loss’’ to the host broadcaster. Set Max had arrived at a negotiated settlement of about Rs 8,700 crore with IPL for broadcast rights for 10 years.

But broadcast sources added that news channels had offered to put in place a set of norms to prevent ‘‘over utilisation of footage’’ at Tuesday’s meeting. A broadcaster said there had been a breach of trust since the 2008 norms were expected to be upheld till perpetuity. ‘‘Instead IPL authorities have just brought in a new set of norms without any discussion,’’ the source said.

The channels have joined cause with international news agencies that have boycotted the first two editions of the event because of contentious clauses in the media accreditation guidelines.(TNN)

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