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India v England TV blackout creates storm on two continents

TV Pictures failed to reach viewers around the world for the first 15 minutes of India's first one day cricket international (ODI) against England on Friday due to a domestic licensing dispute between Neo Cricket and India's public broadcaster Prasar Bharati.

Satellite uplinking permission was withheld by the Indian Government after Neo's parent company Nimbus Communications allegedly failed to submit an INR 40 million (£ 516,000) bank guarantee to Prasar Bharati in time to broadcast the start of the match.

The delay resulted in blank screens during the first three overs of India's innings for subscribers to both South Asia's Neo Cricket and Sky TV in the UK.

Sky viewers were initially subjected to a still image with broadcasters David 'Bumble' Lloyd and Nick Knight providing radio-style commentary over a mobile phone from Hyderabad. 'There is not TV coverage of the India v England 1st ODI due to pictures blackout in India', read the on-screen advisory.

Once pictures were restored, commentary was provided for Sky by Indian TV for the remainder of the match. The Indian Government claimed the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) had not sent it the required letter authorising Sky's coverage, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Meanwhile, Neo Sports, which has the rights until 2014 for India's home international matches, accused Prasar Bharati of "unreasonable behaviour" after satellite uplinking permission for the live feed was delayed.

Neo was in turn accused by Prasar Bharati of failing to file necessary documents which included the bank guarantee and a signed agreement over revenue sharing.

Private sports broadcasters are required by the government to share the live feed for India's ODI and twenty20 cricket matches with the Prasar Bharati run Doordarshan network for terrestrial transmission.

"The company (Neo) neither signed an agreement, nor did it present a bank guarantee. They wanted us to give them the permission to broadcast only on trust, which we refused as Prasar Bharati's interest had to be secured," the public broadcaster told the Press Trust of India.

Meanwhile, a statement from the private company said: "Neo Cricket is deeply disappointed by what it believes could be construed to be unreasonable behaviour by Prasar Bharati."

Despite repeatedly communicating with Prasar Bharati ahead of the first ODI, Neo said: "Prasar Bharati refused to confirm on whether it wanted to share the live broadcast of the event or not."

Sky TV is reportedly furious about the incident, and may seek compensation. It has been assured that the dispute will be resolved in time for coverage of the next ODI between India and England in New Delhi on Monday 17 October.

After this fiasco, a "deeply disappointed" Nimbus Communications is reportedly to approach the Indian Government to request rules be framed so that the sharing of events with public broadcaster Prasar Bharati are "equitable and reasonable".

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