Vantage point

Monday, December 13, 2004

Back to non-DD channels at last!!

I have always quoted this as one of the examples to show that just because an entity is government-owned, it does not necessarily mean that it will do things for the good of the people. In fact most of the times it is quite the opposite. And just because an entity is privately-owned, it does not mean it will be inconsiderate to what people want. Quite the opposite.

People who regularly watch cricket should compare the coverage given by Doordarshan, India's public broadcaster, with that given by private players like ESPN-Star, TEN or SETMax. I am not talking about the quality of the commentators, the technical superiority or the slickness in packaging.

I am talking about something as basic as taking commercial breaks between overs. Private channels always wait for the last ball of an over to be bowled, and for the commentator to finish whatever he is saying in 3-4 seconds before they go for a break. And they cut back to the match 3-4 seconds before the action starts so that the commentator can pick up the threads of what he was discussing.

On Doordarshan, they go for a break immediately after the last ball is played, always cutting a commentator in mid-sentence. And they cut back to the action just before the ball is to be bowled. Often DD gobbles up the first ball, making us miss the action.

Now why is this? Both private channels and DD win contracts based on bids submitted to the cricket boards. In neither case do common viewers have a say. So an ESPN or Star can easily go the way of a DD and start this shoddy practise of frustrating the viewer just to get in the revenue of an extra 5-second or 10-second spot after every over. But they don't.

Why do you think that is? Why are private broadcasters better at this than the public broadcaster?