India, UK appear headed for row over holding back SIS payment

New Delhi: India and the United Kingdom today appeared to be headed for a row with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry being asked to hold back payment of Rs 96 crore to a British company evoking a strong reaction from its mission in New Delhi.

The A K Shunglu committee, set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look into irregularities in conduct of Commonwealth Games, has prima facie found wrong-doings in the contract worth Rs 246 crore signed by Prasar Bharti with SIS Live for telecast of the CWG in October last.

Therefore, it has recommended to the I and B Ministry that the Rs 96 crore which remains to be paid should be withheld, sources said.

The recommendation has been forwarded to Prasar Bharti, which seems to be inclined to accept this, the sources added.

Reacting to this development, British High Commissioner to India, Sir Richard Stagg, issued a statement, saying that it was "not right that the company should be penalised in this way".

He said that SIS Live was "a leading British broadcaster with over 70 years' experience of covering major international sporting events. SIS Live's coverage of the Delhi Commonwealth Games was widely praised as first-class".

Hailing its coverage, Stagg said, "the quality of the production captured the very essence of the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies and the Games themselves. It provided great enjoyment for Indian and international audiences alike".

He underlined that SIS Live "fulfilled its contractual obligations, against which all payments should have been made by now. The company is owed Rs 96 crore".

Looking for early resolution to the issue, he said, "we are pursuing this matter with extreme urgency".

The row comes after four Australian companies threatened to sue the CWG Organising Committee for non-payment of dues.

Yesterday, newly-appointed Sports Minister Ajay Maken issued directions to pay all "legitimate" dues related to the Commonwealth Games.