The production of the world feed has stopped due to a series of non-payments and bouncing of cheques, and commentators from across the globe are waiting for their respective payments. While it is not clear who exactly is responsible for this mess, the loser here is clearly the ICC.
Former West Indian cricketers Carl Hooper and Ricardo Powell, hired on an earlier occasion by the same production company, have filed separate legal suits over payment methods. Former India cricketers Deep Dasgupta, Mohammad Kaif, Atul Wassan, Syed Kirmani and commentators like Charu Sharma – among others – are also owed payments and some are busy considering legal action.
“At first, my calls weren’t taken. Then emails started bouncing. The money has not come though. Like me, there are several others. But many may not speak, probably in the hope that payments might come sooner or later,” says commentator Charu Sharma. Several others shared similar details but did not want to speak on record.
ICC gave the digital radio rights to a company based out of Dubai – Channel 2 – until 2023 for all ICC events – and found itself in a soup after cheques given for the procurement of rights (bank guarantees) bounced over the last couple of weeks. Those in the know say there was no tender floated for the rights and Channel 2 had no prior production experience.
The Dubai-based company says it further sub-leased those rights to an Indian company and they are the ones who defaulted on payments and “did not produce the audio feed”.
To avail of a relatively cheaper platform through which it could reach out to ‘millions’, considering television subscription costs and digital outlays are still heavily priced in western markets, ICC sold the radio rights for world feed to Channel 2, run by Ajay Sethi.
Sethi, who has ownership of these rights until 2023, in turn sub-leased these rights – to monetise his acquisition – to multiple radio stations around the world, including the Caribbean and the Australia-New Zealand markets. One of these multiple rights holders included an India-based firm called Sports Flashes, run by Raman Raheja. These companies were tasked with the job of producing the world feed.
TOI understands that between these companies – Channel 2 that bought the rights and Sports Flashes who it was leased to – a series of payment defaults took place, eventually resulting in ICC not getting paid for the sale of rights in the first place and an ugly blame game is taking place right now.
Sethi, whose company Channel 2 has bought rights for the world feed, lays the blame squarely on Raheja and his company Sports Flashes. “They made a huge fraud with us (sic)”, Sethi told TOI from London. “This is a serious default on their part. I am pursuing the matter”.
Raheja denies Sethi’s allegations. “He (Sethi) got in touch with us and said he has ICC audio rights. Since we had the wherewithal to carry out high quality production, he wanted to get into an arrangement with us. How he got those rights without past experience is still a surprise to us. Anyway, so we had this commitment, riding on which I put serious money on the table and got as many as 17 cricketers on board to carry out the production and audio broadcast. Given the space Sports Flashes enjoys in audio production, it soon became evident, this would be our show,” says Raheja.
It is here that the Sports Flashes owner believes Sethi couldn’t digest the way things were being run. “He got edgy and started demanding money out of turn from us. He went back on the commitment. In fact, we sent our team to UK for production which he never allowed to enter and access stadium facilities,” Raheja adds.
The ICC, meanwhile, remains clueless over how to go about the matter and retrieve its own share of payments. Sources in the governing body said, “All I can confirm right now is that there have been some serious defaults in payments. The ICC certainly has to look at the parameters on the basis of which these rights were given out.”
ICC’s media rights head Aarti Dabas, who is based out of Dubai and heads the global body’s rights distribution platform, could not be reached.
“In India, digital radio rights may not be big. TV subscription is effectively priced. Data is cheap. In the UK and European markets, or even in the Americas, people seriously depend on radio. It is sad the way ICC has handled this,” sources tracking developments said.