Rath Yatra live telecast: SJTA backtracks on broadcast rights auction, wants share of TV revenue

Bhubaneswar: Putting all speculations to rest, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) today backpedalled on its decision to auction the live telecast rights of the Puri Rath Yatra thereby allowing all the broadcasting channels to continue telecasting the mega festival on their platforms.

Shortly after a meeting of the Srimandir Management Committee chaired by Puri Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb, SJTA Chief Administrator Pradipta Mohapatra informed that the live telecast rights of the Rath Yatra will not be given to a single channel and so all channels can broadcast the festival.

Asked about the bidding process held to auction the rights on Monday, Mohapatra clarified that the temple administration wants the channels to part with a part of the commercial revenue they earn during the live telecast of the festival.

“In a day or two, I will call heads of the channels to discuss in connection with this regard,” said Mohapatra.

He further added that any channel which does not feature advertisements while telecasting the festival will be allowed to broadcast the event free of charges.

“What is the objective behind giving advertisement in newspaper and inviting representatives of the television channels to the auction and then backtracking? In a very casual manner, they are saying that they wanted to understand the process. In that case they could have called us for discussions. When OTV emerged as the highest bidder, what is the justification behind such flip-flop?” questioned OTV Network DGM, Shyama Prasad Mishra.

Close on the heels of the temple administration’s letter inviting reputed TV channels to bid for the live broadcast rights of the event, several Odia and Hindi channels on Monday had participated in the bidding process for the telecast of the mega event. However, according to official sources, OTV had emerged as the highest bidder with Rs 54 lakh bid for securing the broadcast rights of the mega festival.

Following much hue and cry over the temple administration’s new decision for auction, a Puri-based lawyer Prasanna Kumar Das had filed a PIL filed in Orissa High Court urging the court to scrap the notification citing that auction of telecast rights is a violation of Shree Jagannath Temple Act, 1954.

The SJTA has also asked the television channels to submit the list of commentators to be used during the live telecast and their knowledge of Jagannath culture. This has also stoked another controversy. Questions are now being raised on what parameters the SJTA will use to judge the commentators.

“The meeting also had a discussion on those who will be commentating during live telecast of the Rath Yatra on television. The temple administration also sought reports from the TV channels on the list of Rath Yatra commentators,” said Ramchandra Das Mohapatra, a member of Shree Jagannath Temple management committee.

“I welcome the decision taken by the SJTA, but an expert committee should be formed to monitor the commentators,” said Naresh Chandra Dash, a researcher of Lord Jagannath culture.