Here we go again…

The IPL management — ‘management’, where IPL is concerned, is like ‘high command’ for the Congress party; an inclusive term in theory, but in practice a reference to one man — in the inaugural year of the tournament came up with a series of draconian regulations relating to media coverage that led to a media boycott and a subsequent, partial, climb down by the tournament organizers.

The second edition was in South Africa, so we were spared the unnecessary drama — but now that we are back in India, here we go again.

The media treats cricket events as news; by definition, transmission of news has to be as close to real time as it is possible to get. For that reason, the IPL’s restrictions will prove unacceptable:

The guidelines specify that TV news channels can use no more than 30 seconds of fresh footage from the IPL per bulletin and not more than 120 seconds for a match. Further, there is a 7-minute limit for a full day. Repeats are allowed no more than three times a day against the earlier four.

The guidelines also stipulate a minimum delay of 30 minutes from the live telecast against just five minutes in 2008. Live telecast means the entire period from the first ball to post-match ceremonies.

Live streaming on the broadcaster’s own websites, which was allowed in the 2008 season will no longer be allowed. Nor is deferred or archived footage allowed to be displayed on the broadcaster’s own or a third party website.

As for use of archival footage until the next season, all that is permitted under the new guidelines is a maximum of two clips of 30 seconds each per day against the earlier two minutes per day.

You could argue that the IPL owns the event, and can decide just how it should be covered. Fair enough, if that is the way Modi and his cohorts want to go. Where it really becomes amusing, though, is when the IPL decides to redefine the meaning of websites:

One change that could prove really problematic for the media in the long run is the manner in which the guidelines define “bona fide news magazine” and “bona fide news media website”. These make it clear that a news magazine will qualify as such only if its “business solely concerns the provision of news to the public” and “no part of that magazine’s business involves the sale, distribution or supply of any goods or services other than the provision of news to the public.”

Similarly, a website will qualify for carrying IPL content only if it is “owned (directly and indirectly), run and managed by an organization whose primary business solely concerns the provision of news to the public.”

This means life-style or travel magazines, for instance, are ruled out from carrying IPL content. The guidelines also place restrictions on the nature of the ownership of media organizations that are eligible, for reasons that are far from clear.

The ToI, where this report appears, seems to be concerned with the fate of lifestyle and travel magazines — but there could be far greater concerns than that. For instance, consider the clause that a website will be defined as such only if its primary business concerns the provision of news.

Who defines what my primary business is — you, or I? And since when does the organizer of an event get to restrict media based on its ownership pattern?

What Modi has done is sown the seeds for a clash with the media — and for once, managed to unite print, television and the internet against a common enemy. A friend suggested, on our way to work this morning, that Modi was being a bit of a doofus — surely he should have learnt from the 2008 fiasco?

I suspect that assessment does not give Modi due credit. His goal has always been clear — he wants to squeeze out as many sections of the media as he can manage, or otherwise put restrictions on them that will reduce their coverage to the irrelevant. This way, he clears the decks for the IPL’s own website to gain a monopolistic hold on the event, which he can then squeeze for further revenue. Alternately, he has the option of selling chunks of content to “exclusive” media partners of his choosing, for mega bucks.

He is shrewd enough to understand that he cannot achieve that objective in one stroke — so his preferred option seems to be, each season, to come up with a slate of laws that are clearly unacceptable. The media will talk boycott; Modi will in turn talk compromise. And knowing that the media is hungry for anything it can get, he will make a few “concessions”, the media will proclaim a victory — and Modi will be the one laughing last, for despite those “concessions” he will reluctantly acquiesce to under “media pressure”, he would have managed to get many restrictions in place, and institutionalized.

He can then wait for season four, and start the dance all over again. And each season, he will get a little more, and be that bit further along on the road to the complete monopoly that is his ultimate goal.

PS: There’s a Test on, and opportunities for the likes of Vijay and Badri, not to mention the veterans Tendulkar and Dhoni, to make strong statements. Should be fascinating; personally, I’m hoping to see the team recover from its shock of yesterday and come out fighting. Not that I can see much of it — a day of serial meetings lies ahead; I’ll be mostly away from the desk, therefore. See you guys early evening.

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9 thoughts on “Here we go again…

  1. Pingback: Game On! News Channels To Give IPL 3 A Miss - MediaNama

  2. India’s best bet for the 2nd test was to play Sreesanth, they have not……..is that the most crucial decision in the game? Only time will tell…..

  3. Dear Prem,

    I am following your posts since ‘Thin-skinned in India’ topic. I like all of them especially the posts about Cricket. I feel that the recent restrictions on media (Television media) are not fair. However if the media were allowed complete freedom what do you think as reasonable yardstick that they will stick to in telecasting the news about IPL.

  4. Very interesting read…but does he have control over secondary transmission of images as well…for example If I take a video of the telecast on my TV and post it online can he sue me?

    • Yes, because he claims he has IPR over the property, therefore secondary transmission is also not permitted. Actually, on this one, most boards are agreed — recently during the ball biting incident, CA had YouTube videos taken down, if you recall.

  5. Pingback: Indian Premier League Changes Terms For Digital & TV Coverage - MediaNama

  6. Sounds like a slight variation of the Hegelian trick used by American administrations over the years- Cause problem, create panic, swoop in as saviour, save the day, gain power at the cost of fundamental rights

  7. Prem,

    You have absolutely hit the nail on the head as to how Modi is managing this – he is pretty good at the game of maneuvering himself to where he wants to be and is using classic negotiation tactics here again. And despite what fans or the media wants (and well, most of the media is crap anyway and will suck up to IPL) he will emerge as the winner. When seats on bums are not what pays your bills (not that any of this will prevent fans from filling up the stands), there is very little he has to worry about.

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