UK broadcaster hopes Modi visit will result in settlement of outstanding CWG dues

London/New Delhi, Nov.12 (ANI): The head of a British broadcasting firm which says it is owed 29 million pounds by Indian state broadcaster (Doordarshan) said today that he is “optimistic” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK will bring about a resolution to the long-running dispute.

Gary Smith, Chief Executive of Satellite Information Services (SIS), made the comments ahead of Modi’s visit.

SIS claims it provided the equipment, staff and expertise that brought the 2010 Commonwealth Games, held in New Delhi, to millions of viewers worldwide. But five years on, the company says that it is still owed nearly 30 million pounds.

“It’s been an incredibly frustrating saga. In 2010, we provided world-class services under notoriously difficult circumstances, but it is now 2015, and we are still seeking payment of some 29 million pounds,” Smith said.

The preparations for the Delhi Commonwealth Games were plagued with construction delays and poor management. In spite of unprecedented time, pressure and gruelling circumstances, SIS delivered the HD broadcast capability that allowed India and the games to look brilliant to TV viewers throughout the world.

Not only has SIS Live not been paid in full for its work, it has faced a range of baffling demands from Indian tax authorities, including a demand for income tax worth twice the value of the contract.

“That demand would be funny if it weren’t so frustrating,” Smith says.

Recent events, however, have led Smith to express hope that Modi’s visit will signal a change.

“We know the British government has been working to have this resolved,” Smith notes, referring to recent remarks in Parliament by Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire. Meanwhile, Mr Modi has made some very positive noises about treating foreign investors better, especially by ending what he called ‘tax terrorism’. I am cautiously optimistic. Hopefully this visit will be a chance to hit the reset button. We want to be friends and partners with India, not adversaries. Mr Modi’s visit is a chance to achieve that.”

In 2010, the Economic Times had reported that the SIS Live-Prasar Bharati deal had turned murkier with fresh revelations showing significant departures from tendering norms in the contract signed for telecast of the Commonwealth Games. It then reported that the norms were loaded in favour of the UK firm.

The changes from the terms set out in the request for proposal underline how Prasar Bharti went out of its way to cater to SIS Live’s interests, perhaps at the cost of sacrificing safeguards that would have better insulated Doordarshan and the government.

The ET reported then that the deviations seem to have been carried out without the approval of the information and broadcasting (I and B) ministry which took the contract copy it received as being true to the request for proposal (RFP).

However, then Prasar Bharti CEO B S Lalli and DD director-general Aruna Sharma rejected allegations of impropriety while finalising the contract or making payments to SIS Live The duo then said that no changes had been made in the final contract and that selection of SIS Live had the information ministry’s approval as was the case with the final contract and other decisions. (ANI)

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