Rath Yatra: Hue and cry over decision to auction live broadcast rights

Bhubaneswar: With just under a month remaining for the world famous Rath Yatra in Puri, the Odisha government has come up with a huge change and has decided to auction the rights of live broadcast of the mega event this year.

While earlier, several news channels used to live telecast the Rath Yatra, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) has issued a letter inviting reputed TV channels to bid for the live broadcast rights of the event.

As per the notification, interested channels shall send their application with the bid amount to the office of the SJTA on or before 10.06.2019 by 4.30 PM. The bidding process will begin at 4.45 PM the same day and the rights will be sold to the highest bidder.

According to information, the temple administration has fixed some terms and conditions for the applicants interested to earn rights to broadcast rituals from Snana Yatra to Neeladri Bije of the Rath Yatra festival.

Here are some of the terms and conditions:

  • TV channels interested to buy rights should have at least five years of producing or broadcasting experience
  • The approved bidder cannot live telecast the feed at any public places in Puri.
  • The channel is bound to share the feed with the national broadcaster Doordarshan free of charges.
  • In case of any dispute, the decision of the Chief Administrator of the SJTA shall be final and binding.

While earlier TV channels were given freedom to telecast the mega festival which helped in propagation of Jagannath culture and tradition, the temple administration has not given any clarification on why it has decided to sell the rights to the highest bidder.

Meanwhile, the unilateral and abrupt decision of the temple administration to auction the broadcast rights of Rath Yatra has drawn sharp criticism from several quarters from local elected representatives to intellectuals to even servitors of the 12th century shrine.

Senior servitor Damodhar Pradhan said, the move might help the temple administration make some money during the grand festival but it would hurt Hindu religious sentiments. “The temple administration cannot take such a huge decision without consulting with the servitors’ association- Chhatisa Nijog- because there are a lot of pros and cons,” he said.

Puri MLA Jayant Sarangi also expressed displeasure over the new move. “I think it is unfair to give permission to a particular channel,” said Sarangi.

Member of the Srimandir Management Committee, Rama Chandra Das Mohapatra said decision was solely approved by the Chief Administrator but the managing committee was never consulted

On the other hand, speculations are doing rounds that since different channels used to bring out various aspects of the festival including lapses and controversies to the fore, the temple administration might have taken the decision to prevent such critical coverage of the event.

Ashok Mohapatra of Mukti Mandap Pandit Sabha said that the prime reason behind the decision is to give telecast rights to such a channel which will be under the complete control of the administration and will show exactly what the management wants.

Apart from this, concerns are being flagged over the transparency of the bidding process as the temple administration will have the final say on whether the highest bidder should be given rights of live telecast or not.