World Cup ‘Radio Silence’

International television broadcasters who wish to show the Cricket World Cup cannot construct their own production. There is only one ‘feed’ and everyone has to take it. National broadcasters do their own ‘pre’ and ‘post’ match shows but obviously take the world feed produced by the ICC. There are only so many cameras you can fit into each stadium.

Radio is very different. All it takes is two voices in a commentary box to make the game available to millions of people around the world, spreading the word to existing and future generations who either do not have the physical or financial access to satellite television. And there really are millions of them out there.

So the ICC sold the rights for a radio world feed in order to satisfy this need. They did not come cheap. They sold them to an independent businessman, not a production company. It was up to the businessman to ‘monetise’ his acquisition.

Three national radio stations in the Caribbean, two in Australia and many more around the world – including multiple websites – paid cash upfront for the service. In order to cut production costs, the businessman signed a deal with a low-budget production house (with a questionable reputation) based in India. The opening game and the next four were never broadcast.

Eventually a hastily compiled team of experienced broadcasters was gathered to make the world feed happen. It depended heavily – very heavily – on the professionalism and determination of the crew to make it work. The technical director was forced to incur over 4,000 pounds in expenses on his personal credit card for car-hire, petrol and hotels.

My dear friend from Barbados, Barry Wilkinson, commentated on 15 consecutive games from various corners of the country, often traveling 3-4 hours between venues. I was lucky, only driving 1800 miles between the eight games I did before the production plug was pulled. It turned out that the businessman hadn’t, actually, paid the money to the ICC. He had lodged a cheque as ‘security’. Which bounced when the ICC attempted to cash it. And that was that. No more commentary.

The job of the ICC executive is to make as much money as possible. Sell every asset at the highest price. It is what they commissioned to do by the member nations who either want or need as much money as possible. (It’s not hard to work out which are which).

But something seems to have gone astray. The Prime Minister of Jamaica is just one man who has expressed his anger at the sudden lack of transmission of the West Indies’ vital game against New Zealand – which also happened to be the most exciting game of the tournament. Suddenly every game was no longer on air while the ICC discussed the ‘problem’ with the man they had sold the rights to.

The situation is still not resolved and my time as a ‘viewer’ rather than a worker at this World Cup continues. Only 30% of my personal fees and expenses have been refunded and word on the balance has been silent. But that really isn’t the point.

I grew up listening to sport on the radio and remain a devotee. I notice when hundreds of thousands of people listen to ball-by-ball commentary. The ICC would be doing the global game a colossal service if they noticed it too. It might be that selling the global rights for ‘top dollar’ to an entrepreneurial businessman with no production facilities wasn’t, actually, in the game’s widest, best interests. A lower price for guaranteed results would make far greater, long-term sense.

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