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Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Vempati rubbishes charges of selling recorded history to private players, including foreigners

A recently notified policy for syndicating content rights seems to have been misinterpreted, says Vempati

A content syndication policy introduced by India’s pubcaster Prasar Bharati took a political turn after a letter written by S Venkatesan, Lok Sabha MP from Madurai, to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting went viral on Monday.

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In his letter, Venkatesan expressed his concern over the pubcaster’s decision to auction archived content.

“It is disgusting to note that ‘monetisation’ has gone to the level of marketing historical ‘treasures’ also,” the MP said. “It may have an adverse impact on polity as well as peace and tranquillity of this country.”

It is not an issue of making money for the short term needs of the government to manage fiscal deficit but an important one that has long term consequences on the society, the MP added.

The letter from S Venkatesan:

Veteran journalist Prabhu Chawla picked up the issue on Twitter and asked how can PB sell India’s recorded history to private players, including foreigners? Would GOI pay the foreigners for its future use? Brits took away earlier records. Now this? Who is an insider working for outsiders?, he tweeted.

With the matter heating up on social media, Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati took to Twitter to deny the charges and said the MP appeared to have been misinformed. “A recently notified policy for syndicating content rights seems to have been misinterpreted. The policy can be found here for a correct understanding,” he wrote.

According to the notification issued by Prasar Bharati, the policy will ensure that its archival and premium content is syndicated to third parties through an open and transparent mechanism of e-auction in order to fetch the maximum market value of content on a demand basis.

The scope of syndication policy is to monetise the available content through e-auction to third parties for both linear broadcasting (TV, radio) as well as for on-demand viewing/listening through internet-based platforms, the notification read.

This e-auction will be held in four categories—Global Linear Broadcast Rights, Global On-Demand Rights, India Linear Broadcast Rights and India On-Demand Rights. Further, the broadcasters will have to use content in “as is” format and will be allowed only to dub, add subtitles and make changes in the aspect ratio of the video.

According to the notification, "The available content shall be curated in the compiling catalogue for the purpose of syndication at the catalogue level.”

A base price may be fixed separately depending on the market, terms of exclusivity and period of licensing rights. Exclusive rights may be priced at a premium relative to non-exclusive rights. Similarly, longer-term syndication may be incentivised over shorter duration.

The notification mentioned that the premium content may be auctioned only for a period of one year or less and archival content may be auctioned for a minimum period of five years.

After the end of licensing period, the licensee shall not have any rights to own, share or use the licensed content in any form. He/she may need to participate in the e-auction process once again to obtain further rights after the licensing period, it clarified.

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