Indian Cricket Board's coverage control leaves ABC caught behind | Connect Asia

Indian Cricket Board's coverage control leaves ABC caught behind

Indian Cricket Board's coverage control leaves ABC caught behind

Updated 25 February 2013, 16:47 AEDT

Australian cricket viewers will be unable to watch or listen to the upcoming series in India on their national broadcaster.

After MS Dhoni's double century innings, some Australian fans might be happy not to watch.

The ABC pulled out of the tour, in part because the Board of Control for Cricket in India, or BCCI, have tripled their fees for broadcast rights.

It follows a similar decision late last year by the BBC and SkyTV, who also refused to pay inflated fees to cover England's tour of India.

Instead, the ABC planned to send cricket commentator Jim Maxwell but the BCCI rejected his bid for accreditation.

Other Australian media agencies are also protesting after the Board of Control banned major agencies such as Getty images from their venues.

Presenter: Katie Hamann

Speaker: Gideon Haigh, independent cricket commentator and writer

HAIGH: The BCCI'S main responsibility in an economic sense is to sell television rights for cricket in India to the highest bidder and they have sold them for quite astronomical sums. You tournaments like the IPL and the Champions League have sold for billions of dollars to global television interests like Sony and ESPN. The kind of money that were talking about for radio rights is from the BCCI's point of view really chump-change and they have no particular loyalty to or interest in Australian cricket fans. And unfortunately I don't think the ABC have pushed them terribly hard.

HAMANN: There is precedence for this though; last year there was a similar response from the BBC and SkyTV when the BCCI demand or increased their charges; surely they're acting against their own interests?

HAIGH: Not necessarily. I wouldn't have thought that the audience for a public broadcast of an Australia India test series in this area would be all that valuable to them. I guess you could argue that there's a goodwill element involved but the BCCI doesn't feel any particular goodwill to anyone but itself.

HAMANN: The BCCI has also blocked some major picture agencies such as Getty from covering the series, does this not constitute censorship?

HAIGH: Well what it is the BCCI is basically trying to control all aspects of and monetize all aspects of cricket in India and it's not the only sporting organisation that's trying to do that round the world. The BCCI actually produces its own television coverage in India; it uses its own hand-picked commentators, it has an in-house production facility that enables it to control the way cricket is depicted and perceived in India. So in a sense its attitude to Getty images is of a peace with that.

HAMANN: No other cricketing bodies around the world appear to be charging these sorts of fees or indeed increasing the fees so drastically; is there any particular justification for this or is this purely market driven?

HAIGH: No it's purely market driven; they provide about three quarters of global revenue, they have a population of 1.3 billion that's not going to get smaller anytime soon. And the fact is that India enjoys a special prestige or broadcasting power in India because the country itself is so ethnically or religiously, culturally diverse that cricket is one of the few things that bind it together, that people have in common. And therefore if you want to access the broadest possibly consumer market, the way in which you do it is through advertising on cricket or associating yourself with cricketers or sponsoring games or otherwise, somehow getting your face in the picture. Cricket has a market power in India that in Australia we can barely come to terms with.

HAMANN: The press in Australia have taken kindly to the actions of the BCCI in so drastically increasing their fees and shutting out some of the picture agencies; it's been described as Orwellian and short-sighted, particularly given the challenges that international cricket has in retaining audiences; do you see their point of view or is this just the brave new world of cricket that countries such as Australia and Great Britain have to accept?

HAIGH: Well I think there's always been, where radio and print are concerned, a sort of grace and favour attitude to privileges that journalists and broadcasters enjoy. And there's been a sort symbiotic relationship between the two. Journalist of course don't pay for the right to have a seat in the press box they are viewed in the same light as say critics of opera or film; they get free entry and some sort of facility support. The time will come I think when that right may even come into question. Certainly that's the drift of sport in general these days, not just in India; any opportunity to monetize something that hasn't been monetized previously will be taken.

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