Ever since Prasar Bharati issued the new methodology for the e-auction of DD Freedish MPEG-2 slots in January, news channels have been pointing out the anomalies in the process to the pubcaster accusing it will make the slots for news channels unviable.
After their concerns were overlooked until the beginning of the e-auctions on Monday, the news broadcasters wrote a letter to the Information and Broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur on Tuesday officially stating that they would stay away from the e-auction.
The major concern of the broadcasters is the clause in the revised methodology which gives all the broadcasters across any bucket the flexibility to bid in Bucket A+ at the base price of Rs 16 crore in the second round of e-auction.
The new methodology says that after the completion of the first round of e-auction for all the buckets, the second round will begin with Bucket A+ with a crore more as the base price.
Moreover, any channel from any genre or bouquet can bid for Bucket A+, according to the new methodology.
News broadcasters fear that no channel will wait for Bucket C to start again in the second round and hence they are expected to bid in the Bucket A+ at the base price of Rs 16 crore which is more than twice the actual base price of Rs 7 crore for the news channels.
Even the bid price in the first round will skyrocket as the channels will have in mind that they will be competing at the base price of Rs 16 crore from the second round.
A senior industry analyst said that the bid price could go up to Rs 25-30 crore in such a situation making an unviable business proposition for most of the news channels.
After shelling out up to Rs 21 crore in 2021, the news broadcasters traded carefully last year when they got a slot on DD Freedish between Rs 7.5 crore to Rs 11 crore.
In case the bid amount goes above Rs 20 crore again, no channel would be able to recover the additional burden.
Prasar Bharati earned around Rs 200 crore from news channels in 2021 which slipped to less than half in the next year.
The broadcasters have accused the pubcaster of tweaking the rules only to bring back the earlier revenue or even earn more at the expense of their sufferings.