The new uplinking and downlinking guidelines, released by the I&B ministry on Wednesday, may have caught sports broadcasters such as Disney-Star, Sony, Zee and Viacom18 on the wrong foot.
The broadcasters were expecting the government to relax the processing fee of Rs 100,000 for live telecast of events in their channels every day, introduced by the government five years ago. However, according to industry executives, the government has not waived the processing fee, implying that players would continue to incur significant costs due to this.
“The processing fee results in an outflow of at least Rs 4-5 crore per sporting event for a network. Sports broadcasting is about live sporting. We provide the feed to multiple channels in the network in a number of languages. The processing fee increases the cost of production for sports channels,” a senior executive from a top sports network said.
Also, sports broadcasters, the executive said, continue to pay a minimum of Rs 100,000-200,000 per channel per day as charges for frequency allocation to the Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) wing of the Department of Telecommunications. This is for live uplinking or telecast of events. So, the processing fee is an additional charge, which can be waived, he argues.
Disney-Star, Sony, Zee and Viacom18 are likely to petition the government for a waiver of the processing fee via the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF). Executives at the three networks were not available for comment. Persons in the know say that a meeting between the IBDF and the MIB may happen shortly to discuss the issue at length.
Industry sources also point to the waiver given to devotional channels from paying a processing fee of Rs 50,000 for live telecast of events in the new guidelines. This happened after broadcasters of devotional channels petitioned with the government for the same, they say.
While addressing the media on Wednesday, I&B Secretary Apurva Chandra said that devotional channels would now be recognised as a new and separate category from national and regional non-news channels, which was the earlier classification when charging the processing fee for channels outside the news domain. News channels, for the record, are not charged a processing fee for live telecast of events.
All national non-news channels, including sports and entertainment channels, would continue paying the processing fee, Chandra said, while regional channels (except devotional channels) would continue paying a Rs 50,000 processing fee for live telecast of events per channel per day, he said.
The only relief given to non-news channels, including sports channels, in the new TV guidelines is that they do not require prior permission for live uplinking or telecast of events, experts said. Chandra said only prior registration of a live event on the Broadcast Seva portal would be required for TV broadcasting. Prior permission for live uplinking of events would be done away with, he added, to aid ease of doing business.