Big decisions need to be made
I got an email the other week offering us someone to appear on our programmes as a guest speaker about the Olympics.
According to the accompanying press release, London 2012 may be the last time the Olympics are shown on free-to-air television in the United Kingdom.
It's our hope and belief that won't be the case - but it could be, and some of the big decisions will be made in the coming months.
The government is currently reviewing "listed events" - the sporting events that are guaranteed to be available free-to-air to the maximum number of viewers. Rightsholders and other broadcasters have made their submissions, and today the BBC has set out its position. You can read statements from the BBC Trust here and the full BBC management view here.
This is an issue I've written about before on this blog and in the papers too. You won't be surprised to know that I haven't changed my mind and I'm 100 per cent behind the documents my colleagues are publishing today.
But the thing that strikes me about the debate is that among the predictable entrenched positions - from the broadcasters and from the rightsholders - the voice that was at risk of not being heard was that of the audience.
I don't mean just the regular sports fans who have become used to paying subscriptions to follow their team. The crucial groups are the ones who come into sport for the big moments - the people who are attracted by the amazing story or the gripping event.
They're the audiences who come to us for the Murray matches at Wimbledon, the home nations' games in a World Cup or Team GB's success at Beijing.
When they tune in, they join a national experience made possible by free-to-air services across a multitude of platforms; and they're the people most likely to be put off by pay barriers or marginalisation to the far ends of the digital space.
So it's good to hear those voices loud and clear in today's submission.
The Olympics are seen as the single most important sports event by audiences right across the United Kingdom, and our report poses the key questions: "Imagine the 2018 World Cup being hosted in England and the whole tournament not being available to the entire UK population. Imagine the London 2012 Olympics restricted to pay-TV."
Fortunately, that's not going to happen with the next Olympics since the rights are already secured for the BBC. But beyond that the picture is less certain. In particular, there's an idea floating around that it would be OK if (say) 200 hours of the Olympics were guaranteed free-to-air while the rest was chopped up into pay packages.
We think this is completely misguided. It may be the compromise that's been worked out in Italy to meet their listing requirements, but it would be a disaster for audiences here in the UK.
Think of athletics being available to mass audiences, but not other strong Olympic sports like badminton, boxing or basketball. Or finals being on mass channels, but not the heats that build up the excitement and tell the whole story.
The BBC commitment for London is that all 5000 hours of Olympic content will be available to our audiences, and to slice and dice that with an extra price tag on each chunk would restrict choice and damage the sports.
From past experience, I know there's a multiplicity of views on this subject from readers of this blog. As ever, contributions are welcome. But we're determined to speak for the widest possible range of our audiences - and to factor in the silent majority too. The research published today, in our view, achieves just that.