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FICCI Frames: Corporate ownership will facilitate non-cricket sports

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media | February 20, 2009
Panelists discussed what needs to be done to focus media attention on sports other than cricket

As with every year, at the 10th FICCI Frames too, sports were discussed at length. The panelists spoke about the role of media and whether or not it supports sports other than cricket.

Harsha Bhogle, sports commentator, anchor and columnist raised a few points. "Media in India tends to be box-office driven," said Bhogle. This attitude needs to change in order for change to happen within the media. Since cricket, in its present form, is easy and viewer friendly, it receives a lot of attention on TV, said Bhogle.

& #BANNER1 & #Bhogle thinks that other sports need to be better packaged, so that they are friendlier to view. The way this can happen is, "The government needs to identify about four to five sports and divest in them. Let every sport run by it, much like how cricket runs."

Mahesh Bhupathi, sportsperson and managing director, Globosport, agreed with Bhogle that sports are probably governed by the wrong people. He said, "The system for sports in India is flawed. Access to equipment in most cases is difficult."

About the media's role, he said that once a sportsperson makes a mark, the media keeps regular tabs on the sportsperson, as enough viewer interest is created. "Today, even if Sania loses a match, she gets a fair amount of media space, keeping in mind her earlier achievements," Bhupathi said.

He warned, however, that this happens only when the sportsperson has made the sport more mass, as in the case of Sania Mirza. Thus, if the sportsperson delivers consistently, audiences and viewers will show constant interest.

"India has a lot more issues to deal with, such as electricity in villages and water supply, than funding sports," Bhupathi remarked on the government's role.

Bhupathi finally beamed a light towards the direction of corporate ownership. He said that corporate India's initiative is providing the right kind of backing and packaging. "If this comes through," he said, "we'd have many more champions."

Bhogle too, supported the idea of corporate ownership, stating that it would be a much better format than the government handling many of the non-cricket sports.

Rukin Kizilbash, general manager, Taj Television, (Ten Sports), presented a broadcaster's perspective on why much media time is devoted to cricket -- high TVRs for cricket are responsible for the attitude that media owners have towards non-cricket sports.

Kizilbash offered ideas on how media could get involved with other sports as well, such as creation of new content, talk shows about sports and reality shows revolving around sportspersons.

"India needs heroes in other sports, so that there is a pull and thus, a change in attitude," said Kizilbash. This, he said, will happen when the sports federation takes more responsibility in developing other sports in the country.

Jaideep Sahni, screenwriter (Chak De India) touched upon how Indian athletes have to deal with Indian support and non-support, more than they have to compete with athletes from other nations. "The basic idea of sports," he said, "is to get down and play. The Ministry should support it, but it is too busy accumulating medals to do any of that."

Sahni encouraged the media to, "show some love, drama and expertise in showcasing a different sport and you'd probably find a definite following for the sport."

He is appalled at the fact that the attitude of an average Indian too is skewed towards academic excellence. Parents, he said, are more worried about their child's math and science scores than how he fares in sports at school.

Thus, the discussion brought forth solutions such as creation of new and engaging content on media about sports, corporate ownership of sports as against government control, and more initiative and drive on the part of sportspersons to consistently deliver and sustain interest.