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Overall selection process for telecasting rights is flawed, says MTV challenging the awarding of telecast rights

MTV Channel Private Limited has challenged the awarding of telecast rights for international and domestic cricket tournaments conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket, to the Carlton Sports Network for three years, stating it is unfair and unethical.

MTV has called for the awarded rights to be cancelled, citing an unfair bidding process that was not competitive in nature.

MTV has also requested for fresh bids to be called in order to provide an opportunity for any party to obtain the telecasting rights under a competitive bidding process.

Sri Lanka Cricket announced on several occasions that telecasting rights for international and domestic
 cricket tournaments conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket have been awarded to the Carlton Sports Network for a period of three years.

Challenging the bidding process that resulted in the rights being awarded to CSN, MTV Channel Private Limited in a letter dated  May 22, 2012, informed the SLC Chairman that necessary arrangements should be made to keep MTV Channel Private Limited informed officially on the procedures to be followed and the time period in order to offer its proposals to SLC.

This is the letter issued in response by the Chief Executive Officer of Sri Lanka Cricket,
 Ajith Jayasekara on June 7, 2012.

The letter states that the rights have already been awarded following newspaper advertisements calling for bids.

Sports analysts state that the size and placement of the advertisements published in the newspapers on 5th and 12th of February  did not do any justice to the importance of the revenue sought from the sale of TV telecast rights.

In contrast to these newspaper advertisement, here is how full page advertisements were placed in three
 national newspapers calling for sponsors for the Sri Lanka Premier League.

’’The broadcasting rights of cricket matches is a commercial product that has a high commercial value. therefore great importance should be given to the biding process. For instance when sponsorships were called for the SLPL, it was published on an entire page of 3 national newspapers.’’

’’The notice published calling for local sponsorship, is very much smaller. also the advertisement states
 it is a sponsorship. It does not look like a tender notice. This was published in the employment section. also a time frame for submitting bids was not mentioned. When we compare this with the SLPL advertisement, no information has been provided. So there is suspicion if attempts have been made to conceal information.’’

Meanwhile, responding to Sri Lanka Cricket, in a letter dated 18th June 2012, MTV Channel Pvt Ltd highlighted key points in order to underline the grave injustice Sri Lanka Cricket has committed by awarding telecasting rights in an opaque and clandestine manner.

1. Both advertisements published in the 3 newspapers carry a misleading headline.

2. The newspaper advertisements calling for bids are ambiguous and do not communicate clearly the nature or importance of the rights on offer and misinforms the potential bidders.

3. The advertisements have been placed in the wrong section of the newspaper and has not ; been placed in any local language newspapers.

4. The established process for calling bids through direct correspondence with the eligible media organization was not followed.

5. The Secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket, Nishantha Ranatunga is the Chief Executive Officer or is in a position of similar capacity at the Carlton Sports Network which is an  obvious conflict of interest.

The letter sent by MTV Channel Private Limited to Sri Lanka Cricket reiterates that the overall selection process for telecasting rights is flawed and the decision taken to award rights to a favoured media organisation is unreasonable.

“It is evident that the bidding process adopted by Sri Lanka Cricket to award telecasting rights of matches is corrupt. This is because there was a single bidder and it was given for the price they quoted. The rights have been given for a very low price. The other serious factor is that Nishantha Ranatunga is the Chief Executive Officer of CSN, the organisation which was awarded the rights. He is also the secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket.’’

’’Therefore he has given the telecasting rights to his own channel. That is a serious issue. Awarding
 telecasting rights to a channel such as CSN when several other channels exist, will also have an impact on the people’s interest and right to watch cricket’’

A statement made by Sri Lanka Cricket on the homepage of its website notes that it is “a major source of national income and has always been in the public eye and of interest.”

The website also states that “Sri Lanka Cricket therefore makes a pivotal contribution to the nation at large.”

People’s Comment:

“Because of the arbitrary decisions I believe there is no purpose in this. Some sports fans have been deprived of the opportunity to witness the cricket matches because of the poor transmission quality of the channel telecasting it.”

“We are asking the cricket authorities not to hoodwink the people.”

“I think the cricket authorities have become puppets. They dance to a particular tune. They have snatched the opportunity to watch a cricket match in complete freedom.”

Awarding telecast rights for domestic and international cricket tournaments conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket is the main source of income for the governing body of cricket in the country.

Experts point out that the awarding of telecast rights for a much higher price could pave the way for Sri Lanka Cricket to maximise revenue and extricate itself from the severe financial crisis it is currently facing.

Experts and cricket lovers alike opine that the awarded rights be canceled and fresh bids be called in order to ensure the Sri Lanka Cricket coffers are not depleted further by the lack of a transparent, professional, genuine effort to ensure Sri Lanka Cricket’s interests are protected.

“The MTV Sports Channel has been covering cricket for a very large audience, unbiased and very independently as far as I remember. But now I understand that they have been in fact denied the opportunity of tendering to cover Sri Lanka‘s domestic cricket. I think that is very very unfair. Because I think any channel for that matter should be given the opportunity and go by the basis, may the best man win. I think Sri Lanka Cricket should adhere to such basic principles.” said Veteran Cricket Writer Mahinda Wijeysinghe

“Maharaja’s have for a long time been in the forefront of Sri Lanka Cricket. Particularly at the early stages when we obtained test status. Players found it difficult to find jobs and Maharaja came to the rescue and gave many Sri Lankan cricketers jobs.’’

’’They gave them the stabilities of the jobs and the encouragement to play cricket. Maharajas have done a great deal for Sri Lanka Cricket and this is something that must not be forgotten.’’ stated Former Sri Lanka Cricket Captain Michael Tissera


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