Speaking in the House of Commons, British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Hugo Swire expressed his hope that the issue of the £29 million owed to British company SIS in connection with its broadcast contract for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi would be resolved before Indian Prime Minister Modi visit London next month.
Responding to a Parliamentary Question by British conservative MP Laurence Robertson, asking "what recent discussions he has had with the Government of India on outstanding payments due to British companies for work carried out during the 2010 Commonwealth Games."
The Minister replied that "in the case of SIS Live, the British High Commission in New Delhi has provided consistent support to the company and urged the Government of India to resolve the dispute over payment," adding that he had personally raised the matter with the Indian High Commissioner "just yesterday, and we will continue to press for a satisfactory settlement".
Mr Robertson stressed that "SIS Live is a perfectly respectable British company which fully delivered on its commitments in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games," and asked the Minister if he agreed "that the outstanding debt of £29 million should be paid to SIS Live in advance of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to this country later this year."
Responding positively, Mr Swire made it clear that the British Government was very aware of the broader implications of an unpaid debt of this nature: "Yes, we very much hope this will be resolved before Prime Minister Modi comes here shortly. Bilateral trade with India is extremely good, but what is important is the signal this matter sends to other potential British companies looking to invest in India. So we do want it resolved."
SIS Chief Executive Gary Smith thanked the minister for raising the issue and said, "The conditions under which we had to operate for the Delhi Games were notoriously difficult, but we delivered internationally acclaimed broadcast coverage of the very highest standard, on time and within budget. Five years have passed, and we are still waiting to be paid. This is obviously very serious for SIS, but, as the Minister said, what’s important is the signal this sends to other British companies thinking of doing business with India. What has happened to SIS is no secret. If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone else."
It may be noted that the British Broadcasting Company SIS Live was awarded the contract for television coverage for 2010 Commonwealth Games by Prasar Bharati on 5th March 2010. The unit responsible for negotiating and delivering the contract was effectively the former BBC Outside Broadcasts, which had been acquired by SIS in 2008. Under the terms of that acquisition, this unit was committed to operating under the same ethical and professional standards that had applied when it was part of the BBC.
Of the original contract value, Rs 147.6 crore had been paid but the outstanding balance of Rs 98.4 crores together with substantial other costs and charges remain unpaid despite the fact that the company delivered on-time and within budget, providing coverage for the global television market, under the notoriously difficult operating conditions which beset the Delhi Games.