Thursday, December 29, 2005

Terrorist attack in IISc?

From Nanopolitan: nanopolitan: Terrorist attack in IISc

Yesterday night I was horrified to watch in the news a gun attack at IISc, where a conference on Operations Research was going on. The news anchors couldn't immediately get an idea on whether it was a crazy loony shooting someone or a calculated assassination attempt or an act of terrorism.

Subsequent details showed that an AK47 type automatic rifle was used, indicating that this is a terrorist attack aimed at creating terror and confusion amongst the researchers and teachers at premiere institutions in India.

Abi describes the scene first hand.

I offer my condolences to Prof. MC Puri's family. I hope other injured scientists recover speedily and survive this attack.

We hope that the police will act swiftly and nab the culprits and also catch the planners behind this act.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

ICC calls meet for DD rollback

Hindustan Times writes: ICC calls meet for DD rollback

ICC is organizing a meeting in Dubai on January 11 to discuss the Indian Government's satellite television uplinking policy which forces private satellite channels to share the cricket feed with the state run Doordarshan terrestrial channels.

My view is that Indian Government may not be in a position to force satellite channels to share specified rights as it may violate some International covenants. For example, a satellite channel may not even have bought the terrestrial rights. Doordarshan then cannot force that satellite channel to share the feed for terrestrial broadcasts.

The concerned foreign cricket board can demand Doordarshan to pay cash for terrestrial broadcasts, as opposed to Doordarshan's favourite method of revenue sharing. Some cricket board will have to test Doordarshan and Indian Government in a court. It cannot be done by one person (satellite broadcaster) alone.

Monday, December 19, 2005

India's Looming IT Labor Shortage

From Business Week Online: India's Looming IT Labor Shortage

Article talks about the McKinsey Global Institute and Nasscom study on what could go wrong with India's quest for IT supremacy in the world.

We need to overhaul the education system, produce more qualified, employable engineers, and improve on the country's infrastructure, says the report.

I hope Indian Government acts on the study's findings, and finds the money required to invest in education and infrastructure.

All along, I hope they will also keep the poor people in mind and spend sufficient monies on them so that they are pulled up sufficiently. Rural education and job creation are also the keys. Otherwise, there will be two Indias at loggerheads against each other resulting in a violent armed struggle.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Free Trade vs Trade Barriers

Ramnath, while criticising P.Chidambaram, presents the views of Arvind Panagariya, Professor of Economics at Columbia University, on trade barriers and his advice to the developing countries.

Today's The Hindu has a borrowed piece from The Guardian, written by Guardian's economics editor, Larry Elliott. It will provide an alternate viewpoint, one that uses the 18th century USA as an example.

Monday, December 12, 2005

New telecast bid from BCCI

The new board of BCCI has cancelled all previous television rights tenders and is expected to release a fresh tender today. The decision will be made within a week - by next Monday, BCCI's Vice President Lalit Modi announced in an interview in NDTV.

Lalit Modi seemed to indicate that in the new tender process they will make more money than the previous bid by Zee Sports, which was challenged by ESPN in court, bid was cancelled by Dalmiya controlled board, Zee went to court and so on.

I doubt if BCCI will make more money this time around. Whoever wins the bid will have to deal with sharing the terrestrial feed with Doordarshan (which itself is being challenged by Ten Sports in Mumbai High Court). This would result in drastic reduction in subscription revenue and advertising revenue for the satellite broadcaster.

I feel that Zee has a lot to gain - much more than ESPN Star - by winning this bid. Therefore, chances are that they may bid more than what they did in the past. The bid conditions will be simple enough to allow for everyone including Zee, TWI and Nimbus as well.

I would prefer Zee if they are ready to generate local language feeds - in Tamil, Bengali, and then eventually Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Telugu, Kannada etc. They are already generating Tamil and Bengali feeds for the ongoing India-Sri Lanka Test series.

Let us wait and watch.

Ten Sports takes Indian Govt. to court

Finally a legal test for the new regulations brought on by the government of India on sharing cricket feeds with Doordarshan. Ten Sports has taken the I&B Ministry to Bombay High Court, "challenging the guidelines issued last month as a case of unjust enrichment for Prasar Bharati."

Ten Sports is more serious than ESPN Star, since the Indian tour of Pakistan is starting next month, and after an England touring us, India will be travelling to West Indies. Ten Sports owns the rights to matches played in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies.

Ideally, it will be better for ESPN Star to join in the suit. It would be better for Zee and Sony to also join in to put up a joint opposition.

However it appears that Zee is not much worried about the govt. regulation.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cricket on worldspace radio!

In a press release issued by Worldspace India, they have talked about offering a dedicated sports radio channel, branded "PLAY", in their digital satellite radio platform.

The content will be provided by BBC, Radio Midday (GO 92.5 FM in Mumbai) and TWI.

If you have to run this channel successfully in India, you would have to get access to live audio commentary of cricket matches, which has primarily been the preserve of All India Radio.

In addition, this channel will have to get audio broadcast rights to Grandslam tennis events, World Cup football, several hockey matches, round-the-clock sports news, interviews and so on.

TWI can offer excellent content here. BBC will provide global sports news content. Radio Midday is expected to pitch in with Indian sports content.

I have the worldspace radio at home, but haven't taken the paid subscription deal. I will now take up the subscription just for this sports channel (and perhaps also the 24 hour Carnatic channel).

Ehsan Mani to meet Priyaranjan Das Munshi

Besides the private sports broadcasters in India, the cricket boards around the world are unhappy at the Indian Government's decision to enforce terrestrial broadcasting of cricket through Doordarshan. These regulations were notified and they come into effect from December 2nd, from the 1st Day of the 1st cricket Test between India and Sri Lanka.

However unlike the private Indian broadcasters, the world cricket bodies can only complain. They have no locus standi in fighting it out. However the Indian companies have a strong legal platform to fight Indian Government in the courts.

Ehsan Mani, President of ICC is supposed to meet Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi.

However, I am afraid Das Munshi is probably not even aware of the issues concerned. When the new guidelines came up, the minister responsible was Jayapal Reddy. Immediately after the regulations were brought on, Jayapal Reddy was pushed to some insignificant ministry.

The rumours are that the real person behind this move is the Minister for Telecommunications and IT - Dayanidhi Maran. Let me reiterate that these are only rumours. The reason attributed is that Maran has strong interests in a Television network - Sun TV - run by his brother in south India. The only strong competition for this network in terms of grabbing advertising monies in South India is sports broadcasters. By ensuring that sports broadcasts are made available on free-to-air television like Doordarshan, whose ability to grab advertisement money is rather limited, Sun TV will have access to more advertisement income.

Secondly, Sun TV group also has distribution interests - through SCV, a cable distribution company. ESPN, Star, Zee, Sony etc. constantly keep fighting with cable distribution companies on the back of strong cricket rights they hold - in forcing the distributor to disclose honest numbers on number of households they distribute to, and also increasing the per house fee. By taking the cricket feed to Doordarshan - which is free-to-air - SCV and other cable companies benefit immediately.

There may not be any truth behind these rumours. Nevertheless I am worried about the conflict of interests. The cabinet must be above suspicion.

Cricket Telecast Issues

Several changes in the last few days that need to be recorded here.

1. BCCI administration changed, as Sharad Pawar wins defeating Jagmohan Dalmiya camp's Ranbir Singh Mahendra. BCCI is embroiled in a lawsuit on cricket television rights.

2. Zee TV was awarded satellite telecast rights for the ongoing India-Sri Lanka Test series, after the Delhi High Court judges Justice M K Sharma and R C Chopra ordered the BCCI that a decision be made in an open bidding by 1st December. The first Test was to start on 2nd December. Accordingly, bids were invited till 1300 hrs on 1st December and the tender was decided by 1400 hrs. Zee outbid all the others.

However, the bid was only for satellite television rights in India and overseas rights. Prasar Bharati had already been promised terrestrial rights and BCCI agreed to abide by the same - on a revenue share basis.

TWI produces the series while Nimbus will handle the overseas sales of the feed (on a revenue share basis).

Dalmiya apparently is surprised by the fact that Zee won the bid. It is time Dalmiya stops wondering and gets on with his life.

3. The long term problem: My feeling is that the current BCCI administration will ask for withdrawal of all the cases, a fresh tender to be called for with lighter restrictions (thereby allowing Zee to bid), and then let the decision be made transparently. The bid value will come down considerably since the Indian Government has stipulated that the terrestrial feed be given to Doordarshan. Watch the next post.

We will await the developemtns.