The 2011 World Cup Championship final in which India defeated the Sri Lankan team in the Finals and won the Cup remains memorable in Indian cricket fans. Almost 135 million viewers watched this final match live in India. This viewership was live on the terrestrial and DTH networks.
All matches played by India were available for free on the DTH network even though Star Sports had paid billions for broadcasting rights because the sporting events were designated as events of national importance in accordance with The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007.
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The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007: At a Glance
The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act received approval from the President of India on 19th March 2007 and was enacted on 11th November 2005. The objective of the Act was to provide free-to-air access to sports events of national importance to viewers through Prasar Bharti, a public broadcaster in India. This act requires the mandatory sharing of broadcasting signals with Prasar Bharti and is divided into four chapters and with a total of 10 sections.
Some of the Definitions Under the Act
The broadcaster includes person(s) or organisation(s) providing content broadcasting service and broadcasting network provider managing and operating television or radio channels.
Broadcasting Network Service
This service provides an infrastructure network to carry the broadcasting content in the electronic form to multiple users and includes management and operation of the following:
- Teleport, Earth Station, or Hub.
- DTH broadcasting network.
- Multi-system cable television network.
- Local cable television network.
- Satellite radio broadcasting network.
- Other network services that the central government may prescribe.
Cable Television Network
This network is a system having closed transmission paths and signal generations and is designed to receive and transmit television channels and programmes to multiple subscribers.
Direct-to-Home Broadcasting Services
This is a service of multi-channel distribution of programmes and directly provides to subscribers without an intermediary.
Sporting Events of National Importance
The Ministry of Information and Broadcast with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Prasar Bharti jointly determine events to be categorised as ‘Sporting Events of National Importance’. Some of the events included in the list are as follows:
- National Cricket Matches
- Football World Cup semi-final and final matches
- Few Grand Slam Tennis Matches
- Some Hockey events
- The Olympic games
- Commonwealth Games
- Asian Games
Mandatory Sharing of Sports Broadcasting Signals
Under Section 3 of the Act, all private content owners and television or radio service providers have to mandatorily share the live broadcasting signals of sports events of national importance with Prasar Bharti without any advertisement or logo of the signal provider. This enables Prasar Bharti to transmit the same signals through its terrestrial and direct-to-home networks such as Doordarshan, All India Radio, among others.
In the case of allowing advertisement by private service networks, Prasar Bharti can generate revenue through such advertisements. The revenue-sharing ratio between the content owner and Prasar Bharti is 75:25 in television and 50:50 in radio coverage.
The arrangement under this section makes some sporting events of national importance available to many viewers unwilling to subscribe or cannot afford private service providers.
The Star Sports Case
In Star Sports India Private Limited vs. Prasar Bharati and Ors. the Supreme Court of India upheld the validity of Section 3. The Court clarified that Prasar Bharati can only retransmit the live broadcast on its own free-to-air Doordarshan and free-to-air radio network. It cannot provide the broadcast on cable TV networks.
The appellant argued that providing live broadcast on cable TV networks causes economic loss as the provider loses subscription to its network. If one could enjoy a cricket match free of cost on a Cable network as they are required to have at least two Doordarshan channels, why would somebody pay for it on Star Sports? Therefore, the ruling by the Supreme Court came as a relief for private network companies.
Proposed Amendment of 2018
Two years after the Star Sports judgement, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, proposed the Draft Broadcast Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) (Amendment) Bill 2018. As per this draft, Prasar Bharti could retransmit live broadcasts even on cable networks and not just its territorial and DTH network. The Bill could have nullified the effect of Star Sports Judgement. However, to the relief of Private network companies, the government has put the draft on the back burner with no action so far.
Power of the Central Government to Issue Guidelines
Chapter 3 of the Act deals with the Powers of the Central Government to provide guidelines. As per Section 5, the central government can take all measures by issuing guidelines regarding mandatory sharing of the live Broadcast with Prasar Bharti.
Rules and Guidelines to be Laid Down Before Parliament
Section 8 of the Act required that all the rules and guidelines issued by the central government have to be laid down in each house of the Parliament while it is in session for 30 days.
Under Section 4 of the Act, the central government can impose penalties on the content rights owner and television or radio network service provider for failing to share the live broadcast with Prasar Bharti or for violating any other condition. The penalties may include the following:
- Suspension or Revocation of registration, permissions, or licence
- A fine up to Rs. 1 crore.
The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act of 2007 helped the government control private network companies’ monopoly over national and international sports events. The private company would easily buy broadcasting rights with their wealth, which is almost impossible for public broadcasters. Therefore, this act is an important piece of legislation that allows viewers who could not pay high TV subscription fees on private networks to access sporting events on a free-to-air basis. This also helps to motivate and encourage youth in far-flung areas to excel in sports.
FAQs on Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act, 2018
What is the objective of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act, 2018?
The objective of the Act is to provide free-to-air access to live broadcasts of sporting events of national importance to a large number of viewers and listeners.
Who determines the list of sporting events of National Importance?
The Ministry of Information and Broadcast determines the events categorised as events of National Importance. The ministry, alongside the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Prasar Bharti, determines the list.
What is the significance of the Supreme Court Judgement in Star Sports India Private Limited vs. Prasar Bharati and Ors.?
The Supreme Court, in Star Sports Case, upheld Section 3 of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act, 2018 but also made it clear that Prasar Bharti cannot retransmit live broadcast to cable service networks.
What is unique about the Broadcast Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) (Amendment) Bill draft of 2018?
The draft bill allows Prasar Bharti to retransmit the live broadcast of the sporting event not just on its free-to-air networks such as Doordarshan and Radio network and DTH network but also on cable service networks through cable operators.
What is the Penalty for the violation of Section 3 of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act, 2018?
In case of violation of Section 3, the central government can suspend or revoke the private network company's registration, permissions, or licence. The Act can also impose a fine of up to ₹1 Crore.