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|April 27, 2000||
Doordarshan's sports telecast scam
International Cricket Council chief Jagmohan Dalmiya and WorldTel's Mark Mascarenhas were today accused of defrauding Doordarshan of four million dollars in respect of telecast rights for the ICC knock-out tournament in Dhaka, in October 1998.
At a press meet in Delhi, Arun Agarwal, who conducted an inquiry into Doordarshan's telecasts of sports events in the past few years, questioned why the Prasar Bharati board decided to shelve the inquiry file without referring the matter to vigilance or the Central Bureau of Investigation as desired by former chief executive officer O. P. Kejriwal, who had appointed Agarwal to conduct the probe.
Agarwal said, "It showed the level of corruption in cricket. It not only involves players but even prominent personalities who are closely associated with the game.''
He alleged that Dalmiya, in March 1998, entered into post-bid negotiations with Doordarshan as the sole negotiator for the ICC knockout tournament and increased the telecast fee from eight million dollars to eleven million dollars, of which four million dollars were to be for the Indian rights, six million for international rights and one million towards international costs. However, he said, Stracon advised through a letter on March 3 that it had already sold the international rights to Mark Mascarenhas for eight million dollars, and, as such, the Indian rights would cost eight million dollars. "Thus," Agarwal said, "a benefit of four million dollars was given to Mascarenhas."
Relating the sequence of events, Agarwal said the ICC asked Prasar Bharati in February 1998 to deposit a bank guarantee of ten per cent of the bid amount, despite the fact that it was not part of the bid document. Stracon India entered into a memorandum of understanding with WorldTel on February 19 for transfer of international (minus India) marketing rights to Mark Mascarenhas of WorldTel for three million dollars, but the deal was kept secret from Doordarshan. Thereafter, Doordarshan requested Stracon to procure a bank guarantee on its behalf and create a charge on the international rights of the tournament, without mentioning any amounts or inviting competitive bids. WorldTel was recognised as the overseas rights holder.
The controversial report on the sports consortium reveals that Doordarshan suffered losses running into several crores of rupees from telecasting of several sporting events during 1998-99 either because of some collusion/misappropriation or because of lack of proper planning by Doordarshan officials.
Submitted to the board in May last year, the report related to sports events in 1998-99 and the working of the sports consortium, which had been formed when S. S. Gill was CEO of Prasar Bharati.
While the report, which was discussed by the board, was never made public, Agarwal said he was encouraged to make it public since, firstly, no Prasar Bharati document was secret as per an order of Gill, and because he wanted to show that the money involved in match-fixing is nothing in comparison to the consortium scams.
A cursory reading of the report raises several questions about the crores of rupees involved in Doordarshan's telecasts. For example, it is still not known why India paid as much as six million US dollars for the telecast of just eleven matches out of the 24 million US dollars which the England and Wales Cricket Board received from all over the world (with many countries telecasting all the 42 matches).
The report also shows that Doordarshan did not earn a single rupee from nine events including the Wimbledon and French Open tennis championships, the soccer World Cup, and the mini cricket World Cup, which were all beamed live in 1998.
The report also says: Doordarshan had lost a sum of about Rs 20 crore in connection with the telecasts of the International Cricket Council mini-series, held in Bangladesh two years ago; the broadcaster lost three to four million US dollars on account of under-realisation from the sale of international rights in view of higher bidding being available; it had also paid the withholding tax of Rs 5.11 crore and waived the opportunity cost, which was Rs 14 lakh for weekdays and Rs 17 lakh for weekends.
In addition, a sum of Rs 30 lakh was spent on advertisements in local papers. All this was in addition to expenditure on account of foreign trips, interest costs, and precious foreign exchange. The report shows there were dealings for the mini-series in the name of the consortium even before the consortium formally came into being in March 1998.
Also, there is still no definite explanation to what happened to an amount of about Rs 7.5 crore lying in Doordarshan's Canara Bank account for the World Cup/Sharjah events. Doordarshan officials have not been able to explain why an account and a foreign letter of credit of about Rs 10 crore, in connection with the Sharjah and World Cup tournaments, was opened in a bank other than the State Bank of India, which handles Doordarshan's accounts.
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