Sunday, November 13, 2005

Crushed by the Murdoch juggernaut

Mike Marqusee writes in The Hindu Sunday Magazine: Crushed by the Murdoch juggernaut

Marqusee is a traditional left winger. However I do agree with his main point about a Murdoch monopoly on world cricket.

In Australia - the birthland of Murdoch - however, it is his bitter enemy and close partner in business Kerry Packer who controls the mainstream cricket. But Packer and Murdoch jointly own Foxtel network which shows all the other cricket not shown in Packer's Channel 9.

In India, the battle for cricket telecast is waged by several including Subash Chandra and Murdoch. However, the Indian Government has stumped them all with its Channel Downlinking Notification Guidelines.

The Brits however are the people most affected by Murdoch. They can't anymore watch home Test series on free-to-air TV. Overseas Tests and all One-day Internationals have been only on pay TV since BBC lost interest in cricket. Now, even the last vestige will be gone.

The only saving grace is BBC Radio's live audio commentary.


As for India, the impact of sharing the feed with Prasar Bharati, if it cannot be legally challenged successfully, would mean that Sports Channels like ESPN, Star Sports and Ten Sports will lose money big time over the next three years. Ten Sports may simply pack up and leave - the first casuality. ESPN and Star Sports will linger on for a while. SET Max will not bid again for ICC World Cup events at the sort of numbers it did.

Zee seems to have evinced more of an interest at the government notification. It had the least to lose - it had no rights. The other channels allow Zee Sports to pick up India rights, just to see what actually happens in that case. Zee, with absolutely no experience (its only earlier experience with marketing Indian cricket was in the name of Buddha Telefilms - it continues to fight with Prasar Bharati in courts) is sure to make a mess of it.

We, fans, will patiently follow everything. We have just seen our team pull itself up from the absolute depths it had landed in. In due course, we fervently hope, BCCI will improve, and we will continue to hope that our Government will also behave properly sometime in the future.

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