A British broadcast company is at the centre of an escalating row, with the British High Commissioner demanding that SIS Live be paid immediately for its production of the Commonwealth Games telecast, even as Prasar Bharati indicated that it would wait for the conclusion of the probe into CWG irregularities before shelling out the money.
“We are pursuing this matter with extreme urgency. SIS Live’s coverage of the Delhi Commonwealth Games was widely praised as first-class,” said British High Commissioner Richard Stagg in a statement on Friday. “SIS Live fulfilled its contractual obligations, against which all payments should have been made by now. The company is owed Rs. 96 crore. It is not right that the company should be penalised in this way. We look forward to early resolution of this matter.”
SIS Live says that of its total fee of Rs. 246 crore, agreed in a contract with Prasar Bharati, it is still waiting for the last two tranches – amounting to Rs. 96 crore – to be paid.
However, Prasar Bharati’s new acting chief executive Rajiv Takru indicated that he is likely to wait for the result of the Shunglu committee’s probe into the Games to be completed before taking a decision on the issue. He is also waiting for legal opinions on queries about the contract posed to the Law Ministry and legal experts, he told The Hindu.
“They [Information and Broadcasting Ministry] sent us a letter from A.K. Shunglu, saying that he is about to finalise his report in the next two weeks, and the Ministry should therefore take a conscious decision about what is to be done in the matter of payment to SIS,” said Mr. Takru, who is also an Additional Secretary in the Ministry. The letter from Mr. Shunglu, who was appointed by the Prime Minister to probe the allegations of corruption in the Games, was sent about a week ago.
Mr. Takru rejected any idea that Mr. Shunglu’s letter forbade Prasar Bharati from making the payment now. “It is by no means a prohibition, merely an advisory,” he said.
He added that the final bills from SIS Live, submitted in December, were being examined, even as Prasar Bharati awaited the responses to its requests for legal opinions, and the final Shunglu report. “Once we have that on record, then a final view will be taken,” he said, indicating that at least one week’s delay was inevitable.
Mr. Takru also seemed to take exception to SIS Live’s constant refrain – echoed by the British High Commissioner – that it had successfully delivered an excellent broadcast, and hence should be paid its final settlement.
“There is no point in keeping on saying that ‘we have delivered’ without examining all the provisions in the contract. The question of completion of the contract does not only mean completing the broadcast,” he said. “Supposing the final broadcast is OK, we should not just forget everything else.”
Prasar Bharati is examining whether SIS Live breached the contract, especially by subcontracting. The company claims this is common industry practice and was permitted in the contract.
SIS Live representatives are now expected to meet Mr. Takru on Tuesday to discuss the outstanding issues.
Keywords: CWG payment issues