Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- Ten Sports, cable operators talks continue

Published: Monday, March 29, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:Gulf-based TV network Ten Sports and Indian cable operators were in negotiations in a bid to break a deadlock over the broadcast of the Pakistan-India cricket series, amid reports the Government could intervene.

The row threatens to deprive cricket crazy Indians of watching live broadcasts of the historic series, which begins in earnest on Saturday with the first of five scheduled One-day Internationals in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Cable operators have blanked out Ten Sports, which holds the exclusive rights to the series, after it demanded increased cable subscriptions.

"As of now we have decided to boycott Ten Sports although talks with them are on," said an official of Hathway Cable, one of the warring multi-system operators.

Ten Sports confirmed it was in talks with the operators. "We will speak in the evening as the meetings are on," Ten Sports advisor R.K. Singh said on Thursday.

The cable war broke out when Ten Sports last week demanded higher cable subscriptions from operators on a par with other sports channels such as ESPN and Star Sports.

The operators, led by Hathway and InCableNet, maintain that Ten Sports is a relatively new channel and does not have a subscriber base to match that of ESPN and Star Sports and therefore should not expect similar subscription rates.

Press reports said the Government was arm-twisting Ten Sports to allow national broadcaster Doordarshan to beam the series on its free-to-air terrestrial transmitters.

Information Minister Ravi Shankar on Wednesday met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for talks on enacting an ordinance to force Ten Sports to share its broadcasts with Doordarshan during the 40-day tour, the Times of India reported.

"All options, including an ordinance are open," it quoted an unnamed Government official as saying. English-language daily The Hindu carried a similar report.

"The Government is apparently toying with the idea of promulgating an ordinance to mandate that events of national importance also be given to the public broadcaster as is the law in many countries," the paper said.

Defiance of such a presidential ordinance could lead to a ban on Ten Sports from beaming sports programmes in the plum market of cricket-mad India.

Cable operators beam paid channels such as Ten Sports while Doordarshan's output is free-to-air and covers more than 80 percent of India's television audience. India last toured Pakistan for a Test series in 1989.

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