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Big decisions need to be made

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Roger Mosey | 12:54 UK time, Thursday, 30 July 2009

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.

Rebecca Adlington wins gold in Beijing

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.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I'm very disappointed the BBC have aimed relatively low with the crown jewels list - and their proposals would see the list scaled back, rather than boosted - with some key areas not addressed.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/front_page/8175982.stm

    Of course they go for the headline grabbing football qualifiers. IMO highlights should be guaranteed, but no reason they need to be live. As annoyed as some people might be, controversy surround Sky/Setanta having the rights has not been that they're not live FTA, but when highlights haven't been made available.

    However key things which need to be protected, especially home nation games in the Rugby World Cup, don't warrant a mention, whilst with cricket you go for the token and frankly unimportant Twenty20 and World Cup final, whilst the only "crown jewel" in English cricket is The Ashes series. It was rather crafty the "consultation" closed the weekend before The Ashes began!

    I don't agree all Test Matches should be protected, but The Ashes has already lost something like 3/4 of it's audience this year by being on Sky, and you've posted many times about how the BBC has a sport loaded schedule in even years, but few big events in odd years, meaning The Ashes could quite easily fit into your schedule.


    I'm glad you acknowledge the increased significance of rugby in Wales, where I agree live coverage should be guaranteed. I don't understand though why you only suggest highlights for key BBC events like Wimbledon (except the final) and the Open.

    Shouldn't you be aiming for maximum coverage, not minimum, and then leave it up to the powers that be to decide where it fits into the list. You mention Murray matches in the blog - would the BBC really favour those being on Sky with just guaranteed highlights (probably after 10pm now the roof is in place)?


    Also support the Commonwealth Games being moved up to guaranteed live coverage (though why you say nation by nation, rather than UK wide baffles me). That does at least guarantee some minor sports coverage both in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.


    I think it's also understandable why you drop the World Athletics Champs from the list considering the lack of recent British success - it's not the event it was in the nineties? Out of interest though, how long have the BBC got both the World and European Athletic Champs tied up for?

    Oh, and on that note but with the European Champs in Barcelona next year, an early request for the 1992 Olympic theme to be resurrected!

  • Comment number 2.

    Roger,

    your point about Italy is a little wide of the mark, I believe. I was living in Italy during the Winter Olympics in 2006 in Torino and almost all the coverage was on the main free-to-air network RAI. Granted, this was different for the World Cup. However, despite all matches being on SKY, Rai and Mediaset still carried most matches.

    I still remember this as sport in the media formed my university dissertation, so reading your entry here is something that's of particular interest. I personally believe that the Government will not allow the Olympics to have restricted free-to-air coverage. The BBC needs flagship sporting events like this in order to entice Joe/Jane Bloggs to part with his/her licence fee. Losing even part of the Olympics would be a travesty.

    Getting live cricket back on terrestrial TV is paramount. The whole nation was gripped in 2005 with Channel 4's blanket coverage of the Ashes Test Series, and it's a crying shame that the live coverage rights have been sold to the highest bidder this time around when we are looking at a potential repeat of that epic series.

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't think a lot of sports realise they need to get the casual viewer and the younger audience whose parents don't have pay TV sport in order to build an audience for the future.

    Those who sell their rights purely for short-term financial gain will no longer attract many new followers to their sport, driving down public interest and participation as well. I think cricket has already sealed its own demise in that way, when the generation that hasn't been able to see it on TV reaches professional playing age there will be so few players that we will no longer have an England team capable of competing at all. While Sky is there for the hardcore fan who wants to watch virtually every match, events of national interest need to be free to view or otherwise the lack of exposure will kill off all our sports other than football.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Roger,
    How on earth could the government in their right minds allow the olympics and othe prestigious events to become lost in the madness of pay TV. The Olympics are an institution for the country, how could a host nation in 2012, after the excitement the games will bring, feel if the next Olympics could be taken away. The majority of the best olympics stories come from people who have battled from the very botom and poor lifestyles but have fought that to the top, what if we lose that generation because they can't afford tp witness the greatness sporting moments in a lifetime? For me, the BBC shouldn't just stop with the olympics, this is a 2 week spell every four years as special as it is, but what about the World Championships of Athletics, Swimming (brilliant coverage so far on the interactive service so far), Canoeing, boxing, judo, badminton, the list goes on. But how many times do we see these smaller events, not very often, and sports so as table tennis have lost out on lottery funding, in a sport where we have talent, but the premiership clubs are laughing with the TV revenue, tthey aren't going to be winning olympic gold, (well some might come 2012 with Team GB). I am really looking forward to the Athletics championships but I am disappointed that I am going to miss the US open tennis, the modern pentahlon world cup, the triathlon worlds so on, which are lost the Sky or Eurosport. The government need to think of a way to let all events spreading through every sport on free to view channels because looking at the calamity of Setanta, the future looks bleak. But my final point is, is that people were up in arms when they had to watch highlights of Estonia Vs England in a World cup qualifier. Why aren't they when it comes to missing defining moments in the lesser known sports with athletes who work twice as hard as the ronaldo's and tevezs.
    I just hope the BBc can battle for every bit of sport they can get because for me an avid sport viewer, it would be great.

  • Comment number 5.

    I make no bones about it I love my sport football, cricket, rugby, cycling , table tennis. I could go on. That said I have not and do not intend to get subscription sports packages. The reason for this is that fundementally I don't really miss seeing them enough. Highlights such as match of the day and cricket on five is plenty thanks. When test cricket went to sky i listened on the radio as I do with most sports. Football has plenty of radio coverage and as a Bristol Rovers fan I get a better service seeing goals round ups online than I ever get from my local tv station. Similarly with the olympics nothing is as exciting as watching track cycling but if it went so be it.
    The question I ask of the rights holders is that if I, or the casual audience don't pay for these packages where is their visibility where is their advertising sales. Perhaps I am just anti progress but I cant see the point of buying all the sky channels to watch perhaps one game per week.
    We have one tv in our home and I like sitting down with my partner and family to watch a programme rather than splinter off to different corners of the house. Perhaps my attitude will hasten the departure of these listed events, I hope it does not, but its about balance. After all I have one pair of eyes, one tv and a finite amount of time in any day.

  • Comment number 6.

    this would be an outrage if it happens. the BBC coverage is fantastic. bejing in particular with the options the red button service was great i loved how it enabled me and others to have a chioce to watch coverage of less popular sports that we are interested in. it aslo gave other people the ability to view sports that may be new to them or change to something they'd prefer. this service with out subscription is amazing and would exclude far more people if a charge was introduced. with the uk playing centre to a number of the worlds largest sporting events in the next few years now should be a time to get the entire population excited about sport we should not even be entertaining the idea of making great events less accessible to everyone!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Wow what did the other 3 say that was so bad??

    I think its fantastic the coverage the BBC provided for the Olympics and my thesis suffered due to the range of content available on the BBC website!

    Free coverage increases public knowledge and ultimately participation in sports that dont get that much coverage during non Olympic years such as gymnastics, swimming and hockey. I know several parents whose kids have now started less popular sports as a direct consequence of watching the sports during the Olympics.

    Removing the publics access to these sports will eventually lead to less participation and eventually less medals at Olympics games which nobody wants!

  • Comment number 8.

    Since when did paying a license fee mean that it was free. Everyone in the country pays for the BBC, so it is in fact the ultimate pay channel. You don't even get an option not to pay for it. Free to air, I think not

  • Comment number 9.

    While many individual teams are commercial enterprises and have the right to sell their TV coverage as they see fit - any team claiming to represent a nation, England, Scotland, Wales, NI, UK, GB etc - should be on free to air TV, not just for the major events but for all events in which they represent MY country.

    I don't have to pay to be a citizen of this country, I shouldn't have to pay some commercial organisation to be able to support my country.

  • Comment number 10.

    Why is F1 not on there. This must be on FTA. Even though I am a Sky customer I do not want them having it and then even more ads!

  • Comment number 11.

    Shouldn't you be aiming for maximum coverage, not minimum

    -----

    If everyone does that then no one listens at all.

    Some things shouldn't even be on there. Live home autumn internationals are not needed, highlights would do, while the rugby world cup should always be live (home nations on BBC1/2, other games on BBC3/iPlayer).

    Nothing of Athletics or Snooker I notice?

  • Comment number 12.

    Nice to see nothing motor racing related in there. /sarcasm.

    Oh well.

  • Comment number 13.

    Can we have more research done in finding out whether "FTA" sporting events actually increase audience partipication in those particular sports? How do we explain Wimbledon being given massive coverage on TV, Radio, online and in Print media and yet practically no-one seems to play the sport in the UK. I must have missed all these young people clamouring to sign up to their local Golf Course following the Open.

    In contrast the Premier league is the most followed event across the world and is shown on subscription TV only{ Sky in UK, SuperSport in South Africa....].

    Also you say you don't want the Olympics to be cut apart with certain events being shown on Pay TV because that would remove the tension/ excitement but why isn't that same logic applied to the other events then? Is it really justified to show the T20 final only and leave the rest on highlights package? Wheres the tension here?

  • Comment number 14.

    Point one: those who do not pay tax here should be excluded in the main from the discussions. The UK taxpayers fund Parliament and the BBC, not foreign interests. If owners of UK media titles arrange their financial affairs to restrict the payment of tax in the UK, they should not be considered a significant participant in the discussions........until a time at which they rearrange their taxation affairs to pay their fair share......

    Point two, though is this: it is now possible to gain satellite access for the same monthly fee as BT Broadband AND you get broadband as well. So all those who can afford Broadband+line rental can afford satellite.

    Point three: I think we all know that certain media players think that they are the most important parts of the show. The fact is that they are not. Football is reaching a breaking point where fans are becoming alienated because managerial and player merry-go-rounds are now controlled signficantly by the media not the managers and they are starting to suspect collusion in creating 'drama'. I was somewhat surprised that the expression describing Wembley - 'too many outlets, not enough wazzers' (noting the shocking under supply of male urinals at the National Stadium) should lead to the surprising omission of one W. Rooney the next day, particularly following the inexplicable omission of a £15m signing by Arsenal that day, which one hopes was not anything other than a shocking managerial mistake......perhaps it was coincidence? If/once that happens, the concept of sport as a contest is at an end. It becomes a circus, a pantomime, a roadshow, an illusion. So I think people should start thinking carefully about how to separate the roles of media and the role of guardianship. Because there is a conflict of interest there.......and one can but hope that links to online betting outlets does not create further potential for conflict either.......

    We should think about how many people are now excluded from both attending top matches AND seeing it free-to-air on the telly. Sport is not a national pastime if it depends on you being middle class or better.....perhaps it is the aim of commercial broadcasters to reach that position for their own narrow business interests?

    Strangely, from a narrow financial attitude, London 2012 would be the STRONGEST case for maximising UK returns from media auctions for the Olympics, due to the huge outlay on infrastructure necessary to host the games. Politically that would be impossible of course........and I am not suggesting it either.

    It would appear from the list out now that watching Andy Murray at the time of the match at Wimbledon will only be possible in future if he reaches the final. Whilst that is consistent with tennis being a middle class sport in terms of recruiting new young talent, it is not the case that the AEC need more money to fund UK tennis. They need a better programme management.....it is difficult to see how the BBC could retain solely his matches, unless an assured starting time were part of future scheduling practice?

    No doubt the politicians will obey their masters?

    But hopefully the day will come fairly soon when they realise that their masters are their electorate????

  • Comment number 15.

    This is a really interesting article albeit my opinion is completely contrary to that expressed by Roger Mosey. I don't believe there should be any listed events at all.

    The BBC is free to bid for the rights to show any or all of the events talked about in the same way as Sky / ITV/ Setanta / ESPN /Channel 4 / 5 etc - the listing of any event pretty much means the BBC gets it for nothing adding to the already competitive advantage ( in the shape of the Television Tax aka Licence Fee ) which it has over its rivals.

    Who can argue that Sky has been the best thing that has ever happened for the armchair Sports fan. The quantity and quality of coverage of a whole variety of sports has never been better.

    I grew up in the 70's when pretty much the only live football on TV was the FA Cup Final. Now the footy nut can watch a live game pretty much every night of the week.

    My main love is Test match cricket the coverage of which is much better on sky than it ever was on BBC. Even now covering the Ashes would be a nightmare for the BBC - no longer do games finish at 6pm as they used to do - there are varying finish times particularly when the weather intervenes as per today - what do the BBC do in those situations - either not do justice to the coverage of the so-called listed event or delay the 6 o ' clock news only then to be harangued by those people who hate sport.

    For me the television tax should be scrapped and teh BBC should compete with the commercial broadcasters on a level playing field (they might then do something about the massively bloated management structure / inflated salaries / top of the range pensions and expense accounts)The consumer can then, if they wish, put the saving toward their Sky subscription whcih might be 2 or 3 times the licence fee but believe me the coverage is many times better and represents significantly better value for money than does the Television Tax.

    If people still don't want to pay for Sky then if they are keen enough there is always the option of going to the local pub to watch - this might even rescue some of the 52 pubs a week going bust at the moment !

  • Comment number 16.

    It cannot be overestimated how important keeping the Olympics, undiluted and in it's entireity on free-to-air television is. I would also insist it remains on the BBC. The coverage is unrivalled anywhere in the world in terms of both quality and breadth. The likes of ITV cannot come close to the BBC's product, and we would also face the horror of adverts interrupting coverage. Another factor to bear in mind is that the Olympics is still an amateur event, unlike football for example where the reduction in tv income from ring-fencing rights would have a far greater impact.
    Surely the point of the government creating the "crown jewels" is to protect the public from losing special events such as the Olympics? The needs of the viewer must be prioritised over the needs of the greedy sporting bodies and tv networks. Is nothing sacred!?

  • Comment number 17.

    May I fully endorse the sentiment expressed in posting 8. Every household which possesses a TV is forced to pay a tax, currently in the region of £12 per month, to an organisation which is marketed under the name of the BBC. Many of us are fundamentally dissatisfied with the some of the ways in which the huge sume accumulated are subsequently spent.

    "Free to Air" TV is a convenient myth.

  • Comment number 18.

    "Sport for All"....??

    Apparently not..!!

  • Comment number 19.

    "The Olympics are seen as the single most important sports event by audiences right across the United Kingdom"

    Hmmmm, I think not. While the sport is fun to watch it is loaded with so much guff it's suffocating at times.

    Do you honestly think the nation is going to be as excited to see GB get more Golds than anyone else at the Olympics than if England were to win the world cup?

  • Comment number 20.

    "Point two, though is this: it is now possible to gain satellite access for the same monthly fee as BT Broadband AND you get broadband as well. So all those who can afford Broadband+line rental can afford satellite".


    This is wrong, rjagger.
    However your first point was excellent.

  • Comment number 21.

    Free to air???? The BBC really are the masters of spin. What the hell do I pay my licence fee for, when I never watch BBC programmes. I know why....to pay a load of time-serving BBC bureaucrats outrageous salaries and perks, with gold-plated pensions. The licence fee should be abolished and the BBC broken up and sold off. Let's hope a change of government will achieve that.

  • Comment number 22.

    I reckon they know the ECB will stick with Sky whatever so won't bother bidding for the Ashes.

    Shame to hear the Olympics might go...how will minority sports get more focus if they are shoved away on Sky (at the start of the football season as well..)

  • Comment number 23.

    Ref 19

    Don't wish to become boring and parochial about this - but "the Nation", "GB" and "England"... All the same thing?

    Otherwise, I agree with your assessment of Olympic "guff". And what a lot of it lies ahead of us.

    Although Usain is good.

  • Comment number 24.

    Agree with all the reasoning, but since when is test cricket not an event with national resonance? And since when is the twenty 20 cricket world cup final more important than test cricket? The simple fact is that when it comes to cricket on tv all the BBC's reasoning for free-to-air listing goes out the window because it is difficult to schedule and they don't want an obligation to show it through re-listing. Listing twenty 20 may have the effect of devaluing test cricket. Despite the ECB's incompetence, the BBC could do with standing by the game itself: it still means a lot to the public.

  • Comment number 25.

    Although I completely agree the Olympics should remain FTA and unrestricted, and the interactive service needs to continue, I wouldn't object to passing some elements which get overlooked on to Sky - notably the Olympic Football tournament, which Sky would probably be able to cover in much greater detail than the BBC, and as long as the Beeb can still show the medal matches and delayed action, they wouldn't be a huge loss if they went to Sky.

  • Comment number 26.

    But BBC is NOT FREE!!! Why should the BBC continue to have a privileged monopoly, skewing competition in the entertainment market? No wonder the big international competitors stay well away, all the time blatant protectionism is applied (while the same govt call for such practices to stop in other countries). The hypocrisy is unbelievable!
    If OFCOM are trying to force Sky to let other companies get a piece of the pie, why can't they give Sky (or others) access to these events, but demand they are on channels which many can access - even via freeview? If these events are considered so important why not force ALL major competitors to chip to create a special channel (free) for these things.
    All the time the BBC get the lions' share over others' hard work all the time you will have arrogant management milking the system without fear of proper competition - which everyone has to face in all other walks of life!
    Make it a level playing field and rid us of the folly of "national interest". It is time the BBC learned to live in the real world and face fair and proper competition. Remember, the watchdogs can still implement measures allowing access to all.

  • Comment number 27.

    Here in Spain, all national team events, no matter what the sport, are broadcast free on open terrestrial TV. That includes all the national football games together with the Olympics and even when top sporting figures appear like Nadal at Wimbledon.

    Obviously sport in Spain is seen as a right to watch whereas in the UK it's just another way of squeezing money out of the viewers who already have paid for their TV licence. Millions for the likes of Jonathan Ross, but nothing for the Test Matches which, from whatever way you look at it, are cultural events of historical significance, especially The Ashes.

    Soon, voting will be privatised and the electorate will have to pay to cast their vote, as happens on shows like SCD and BGT.

    What a mean, stingy country Britain is becoming.

  • Comment number 28.

    I feel a little sorry for TV channels like the BBC becuse whilst to say they get an awful lot of money for various programmes and to pay their own staff is totally right and fair just think of how many complaints might well come in from non-sport fans if they decided to show 5 tests matches a summer for 5 days...guess they try to cater for everyone somehow.

    Its probably bad enough when there is Wimbledon or a footie match gets delayed...

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks for all the comments - and needless to say I agree with people like nffc_1978 in #3, garethsportzone in #4, aeroplaneblue in #5, gav_gunn in #6 and the splendidly-named malwhereartthou in #16.

    But in response to jimmyhat1975 in #8 and zootmac in #17: it is, of course, an individual's right in a democracy to advocate that the licence fee should be scrapped and the BBC demolished. That would, of course, mean the end amongst many other things of the most-watched TV channel in the UK (BBC One); the most-listened to radio network (Radio 2); this entire website; and all the regional investment and support for the UK creative industries from the BBC. It's a view but it's not one shared by any mainstream political party or by the majority of the population.

    I should note that I greatly respect Sky as a business and I've been a subscriber for 13 years. But with Sky Plus, HD and the Sports channels I'm paying something like £50 a month or £600 a year; and that compares with the TV licence fee at £142.50. So we've no fear about defending our value for money.

    On some of the more detailed points: #15 yorkshirethai - "the listing of an event pretty much means the BBC gets it for nothing"? We wish! The legislation requires that we pay a "fair and reasonable" price for listed events, and I can assure you we contribute many millions of pounds to sports on the list. What listing avoids is the exclusivity premiums which are often associated with a subscription model.

    Pietrodelroberto in #2: the Italian rightsholder has changed. In Torino it was RAI but the new rights are with Sky Italia, who have to make some content available free-to-air.

    Ryan in #13: a good opening point, and London 2012 will be a big test.

    More follows...

  • Comment number 30.

    Why must major sporting events be 'free'? As others have stated they are not truly free anyway (BBC license fee). There is no such thing as a right to watch sport without paying. People have a right to a home, freedom of expression, health-care etc. Sport is not a necessity.
    Why should you get a 'non-necessity' free when it is not free to present and broadcast it?

    It is crazy to have all this free coverage on a network with few channels like the BBC. The majority do not watch free events with a few exceptions, they still need to pay their license fee.

    There is one solution not yet discussed. The BBC should sell commercials to finance the big events, they could then outbid the competition and make coverage 'free' to the viewer.

  • Comment number 31.

    Having moved to the US 8 years ago, I miss knowing that the big events will be on TV. I also look at my children and realize they won't get the same deep love of watching sports that I got from the BBC and ITV's sport coverage. Instead I have to pay a $600 a year to get the sports channels - a cost I can't justify.

  • Comment number 32.

    Frankly, I was disappointed in the BBC's list. Where are home cricket tests, especially the Ashes? Why not show the full Lions games instead of just highlights?

    Seems that the BBC has aimed low in this.

  • Comment number 33.

    hyandell wrote:
    Having moved to the US 8 years ago, I miss knowing that the big events will be on TV. I also look at my children and realize they won't get the same deep love of watching sports that I got from the BBC and ITV's sport coverage. Instead I have to pay a $600 a year to get the sports channels - a cost I can't justify.
    -------------------------
    hyandell you are mistaken. Most of the major sport in the USA is truly free, the sports channels do not broadcast most of these events. I suggested in my previous post that the US model would work for the UK and provide 'free' coverage. In the US there is no license fee just commercials. This method is used to broadcast the Olympics, all major Baseball, Football (US), Basketball and so on. You need a pay channel to watch football (soccer) but that is a minority sport in the US.

  • Comment number 34.

    It is greatly appreciated that Roger reads these boards and responds to points that are made. It is perhaps all the more telling, then, that Roger chose not to address the issues raised here about the BBC not asking for the re-listing of (even some) test match cricket. Can we have some explanation for why, according to the BBC's own criteria, an England vs Australia test match at Lord's is not an event of national significance or resonance?

  • Comment number 35.

    As a PE teacher, it is my opinion that having access to watch sport is a key part of getting everyone involved in sport long term, I would agree that certain sporting events play a key part in the conversation of the country however I feel that the list is and should be longer than the current one. I do accept that the Pay channels offer a greater revnue to the governing bodies but surely more people playing and becoming interested in the sports is a greater long term benefit.

    Clearly we will not change Pay tv but we should aim to get all major national/international sporting events on free tv. The buzz that is created through all sporting events should be extended to all children/adults if we are to harness the benefits of the major tournaments/events coming to Britain in the next free years.

    I would be keen to try to work with any future BBC review on this matter. For the future sporting success of the nation I hope that we can continue to add to the list.

    Thanks

    Alisdair Cruchley

  • Comment number 36.

    Duncanedw in #34 and dawolf in #32: apologies for not responding earlier on cricket, but (a) we're recommending that the ICC Cricket World Cup Final and the Twenty20 World Cup Final should be listed as live events; and (b) the BBC management submission sets out our position on Test cricket in detail. I've cut-and-pasted the relevant section below:

    "There is considerable debate about whether home cricket test matches should be A listed.
    Cricket is one of the nations most important sports, with a long tradition and loyal fan base.
    The BBC was extremely disappointed to lose live television coverage of test cricket to
    Channel 4 in the late 1990s (although Test Match Special on radio remains one of the BBC's
    most iconic brands). The de-listing of cricket in the last review and the subsequent
    acquisition of exclusive live rights by BSkyB from 2006 has meant live cricket is now available
    only to those fans who are willing and able to pay for access.

    In our opinion, there is a clear public value case for re-listing some home test match cricket

    for example, the major summer test series (every year) or the Ashes series (every four
    years). However, we also recognise that international cricket and the commercial market for
    its rights have moved on in recent years. There has been a significant increase in the value of
    the rights to English cricket it is estimated that the contract with BSkyB for exclusive rights
    to live cricket is worth around £300 million over the period 2010-2013. At the same time,
    the major one-day international cricket events have grown in stature and popularity.
    The decision as to whether some test match cricket should be re-listed for live coverage is a
    difficult and complex one. The Panel will need to weigh up the public interest in re-listing
    with the potential impact on the funding of the sport, particularly at the grass-roots level.
    However, the BBC remains committed to covering cricket on radio and television, and we
    have recently acquired the TV highlights to both the ICC Cricket World Cup and Twenty20
    World Cup tournaments. If, in future, some test match cricket was re-listed then the BBC
    would participate in any subsequent tender of the rights, subject to the usual value for
    money and editorial considerations which apply to all sports rights auctions."

  • Comment number 37.

    don't need f1 on there because bernie has said while he's around it will be on free to air tele

  • Comment number 38.

    I don't usually write on blogs but this is such an important issue that it needs comment. The one thing I haven't seen mentioned (apologies if I've missed it) regards rights. By way of example, what right do organisations such as the FA have to sell rights for England matchs to Sky. England represent the english people, not the english FA and so denying the vast majority of country access to such games is surely not on? The same goes for every sport? And I agree with the comments about sports shooting themselves in the foot. I've been to at least one home test match for the last nine years and yet now I can't sit and watch it on TV. I'm off to Headingly next weekend to watch England, but I don't have the same interest as I had back in 2005 as I haven't been able to watch it. National teams represent nations and so everyone should be able to watch them for all sports, full stop!

  • Comment number 39.

    Roger, I can understand a bit of where you come from but why do the BBC want to keep events that are on ITV?
    I mean for instance, the Rugby World Cup, was on ITV, will the BBC bid for the 2011 or 2015 World Cup?
    I can understand for F1, it has to stay on the BBC, but why does the BBC want to keep Cricket when the BBC in 1999 had a chance to keep it and lost to Channel 4 who dragged the coverage to a new high...same with the F1 going to ITV, vastly improved only to be made great but wrecked by a certain J.Legard....
    Also some of Sky Sports coverage has been superb, Premier League Football, Cricket, Rugby Union...
    But going on the Olympics,I would like to see future Olympics stay on the BBC as you have a variety of presenters who know the sport they are covering however sports shown in the Olympics dont get covered vastly by the BBC but they do on Eurosport, maybe your idea of axing Grandstand was a bit too drastic and I think that the new Director of Sport should revert this awful decision made by not listening to the public and only thinking that Grandstand is an old format when its still a live and kickimg format...c'mon reinstate Grandstand.

  • Comment number 40.

    Ref 29

    Thank you for your response to my posting. Please would you demonstrate where I advocated, or, for that matter, remotely suggested, "that the licence fee should be scrapped and the bbc demolished"? I simply pointed out that we are all required pay a fee to the bbc, that the collective total is a huge sum of money, and that, consequently, "free to view" is a myth. I also suggested that some of the ways that our money is spent is, in my view, unsatisfactory.

    A re-reading of postings 8 and 17 will confirm the above, I feel sure.

  • Comment number 41.

    Wonderful to see a lot of people with the money to provide Murdoch with a retirement.....I'm sure you're very pleased with his service.
    Sadly,.....not all of us can afford it,....

    In respect of the golfers, cricketers and tennis fans,....that doesn't entirely surprise me. Getting a child involved at grass roots in any of those sports is prohibitively expensive,...and the respective administrators rejoice in it.

    Shame on you...!!

  • Comment number 42.

    In an ideal world, the BBC would scrap BBC Three and replace it with a BBC Sport channel because, let's face it, the only reason the BBC doesn't apply for more coverage rights is because of the difficulties in fitting them into the schedule. This is why they will struggle against Sky who have not 1 but 3 sports channels. However, just over 10% of the population have a Sky subscription and so if the BBC lost rights to Wimbledon or the Grand National (2 events that capture the imagination and interest of the public) to Sky, only 10% of the population would be able to watch. With the Olympics approaching and the government targeting wider particpation in all sports then they have to acknowledge that by watching sports on TV it makes you want to get out there and play. When the snooker's on, I'll go and play a few frames at the local snooker club, now that the Ashes are on I'm finding myself playing a lot of cricket and just a month ago I was playing on the tennis court trying to emulate Federer.

    I know that Sky need as many top sports as they can but they already have Premier League football, Rugby Union and League coverage, ATP Tour Tennis, 2 out of the 4 Golf Majors and English Test Cricket and many more. Now, these are the most popular sports in the UK and although they may lose Test Cricket if it is classed as a sport that must be shown on free-to-air TV they still have enough sport coverage to be the dominant force in sports broadcasting. Yet, I have a problem with that, I prefer the coverage on the BBC it is of a higher quality and generally more professional and Sky can't match it except with their excellent Test Cricket coverage.

    So please BBC, set up a dedicated sports channel. My one problem with that: It'd be the only thing I'd watch on TV!

  • Comment number 43.

    ANY politician who believes that the Olympics doesn't deserve to be free to air is treasonous and should be dealt with as such, as should those who decided that Test Match cricket no longer warrented free-to-air coverage.

  • Comment number 44.

    So Welsh rugby would be live, but all other home nations are highlights only? Why the inequality? Are the Welsh the only home nation thought to actually be interested in their national team? Rugby is the main sport watched in our house (international, club and domestic competition in other countries), followed closely by motorsport - including F1, BTCC, WTCC, MotoGP and World Superbikes. Consequently we have Sky as it's the only way to watch 95% of what we want to see. Suggesting however that events such as the Olympics should be on pay TV is simply ridiculous.

  • Comment number 45.

    Thanks for the latest comments.

    Goodian77 in #38: it's a very good point. What has evolved over the years is that the governing bodies now manage the commercial aspects of the national teams - and they seek rights fees to support their activities. But I agree that home nations sides should be seen by the maximum number of people because they represent all of us, and that's what I mean about being against England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland being marginalised in the digital era.

    Webbyfoxes in #39: we've no problem in major sports being available on the other big terrestrial channels. I'm pleased events like the Champions League Final are on ITV and can be seen by many millions. It's a different matter when they're pay-only. And no, we're never going to agree about Grandstand...

    Zootmac in #40: thanks and understood, though equally I never said the BBC was "free". "Free-to-air" is a conventional way of describing a particular type of TV: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-to-air

    ForestFanTom in #42: I agree with the thrust of what you're saying, but I'm not sure a dedicated sport channel is the right answer. Part of what works for the BBC is having the truly big moments on our showcase channel BBC One; and then there are times when we have a number of clashing events where a combination of main channels, red button and BBC online is the most effective way of offering choice.

  • Comment number 46.

    Roger,

    thanks for clearing that up. Personally, I think that is a shame that Italy have decided to give the majority of the Olympics to pay-TV. The Olympics is all about the world uniting as one through sport, where no-one is excluded. I don't have Sky at home and never have - I would not be nearly as interested in the Olympics, or indeed the Paralympics, if I couldn't see the likes of Eddie the Eel, Usain Bolt, Kathy Freeman, and indeed, our very own Becky Adlington, Tom Daley, Sarah Storey and David Weir; the feel-good stories, which is what makes the Olympics better than any other sporting event in the world.

  • Comment number 47.

    So here is the situation...

    1. The dept of culture etc have a consultation on the listed sporting events.
    2. The feedback in various surveys comments and even from MP's is that the most popular by far addition to this list is Test match cricket (or at least the ashes, or the second test series)
    3. The BBC therefore in its wisdom IGNORES ITS STAKEHOLDERS IE THE PEOPLE WHO PAY THE LICENCE FEE and recommends it stays on the B list.
    4. The chances of the popular sway of opinion that at least one test series returns to terrestrial tv are dead in the water.

    Why oh why did the BBC ignore what a lot pf people want?

    You dont have to want the rights but at least be behind its return to terrestrial.

    I think maybe SKY should be forced to show its test match coverage on a free to view channel like SKY Three

  • Comment number 48.

    I understand the major argument against Test cricket on terrestrial is that it fills up a whole day's programming at an hour when not many people are watching. But:

    1) While nobody would argue that a home Test against Bangladesh is a sporting 'crown jewel', a home Ashes series fulfils all the criteria for reach and crossover interest. It is a national rather than niche event.
    2) With night Test matches just around the corner, the potential audience is huge. Andy Murray' night match at Wimbledon has shown this. It makes commercial as well as sporting sense. When night Test matches come in, around 80% of a Test will fall during a weekend or evening. Think of the viewing figures.

    If you can do it for Wimbledon, you can do it for the Ashes. And if you can't, then another terrestrial broadcaster can.

  • Comment number 49.

    The list that is proposed by the BBC just show how short sighted it is when it comes to sport in general.
    OK, you want to see the Olympics free for all 5000 hours, but what about other sports?
    The Challenge Cup Final and the early rounds are shown, but the Super League show is never in the same spot twice.
    Did the BBC even consider bidding for the Cricket?
    Ok, you have some football league and match of the day gets moved about (I can see why Des Lynham left) to suit other shows deemed more important.
    The BBC sport website is OK, but at the end of the day, the BBC could be so much better.
    You have a very limited budget to spend, but dont get it right most of the time.
    Why not show the open or the Masters in HD? or is that channel only reserved for nature programmes?
    The BBC could so easily have provided an HD version of the British Grand Prix, but didnt.

  • Comment number 50.

    The broadcaster who produces the best coverage should get the rights. At the moment, Sky's sports coverage is head and shoulders above anyone else, and therefore it is an easy decision to give it to them.

    Until the BBC begins to realise that not every British athlete who has had success makes a good commentator, it is unlikely this will change...

  • Comment number 51.

    I don't buy the argument at all cricket would lose much cash if the Ashes went FTA. Sky could still bid for all other rights, and any FTA broadcaster picking up the Ashes is likely to want something accompanying it, creating more competition for other rights within the games, whether Test, One-Day or Twenty20 matches.

    Other sports do fine with a pay/FTA split - notably football where apart from England home games, Sky (and previously Setanta) have most of the international rights, despite not being allowed a slice of the World Cup/Euro Champs pie.

  • Comment number 52.

    Would anyone actually pay to watch Wimbledon? I got caught up with the Andy Murray story and watched his matches, but didn't watch any of the other blanket coverage over the 2 weeks.

    Same goes for the Olympics. I watched the cycling & some of the finals I knew Britons were in, but I definitely wouldn't have paid for the privellege.

    Football is an exceptional case because it's our national sport, and people will always be willing to pay for it (of course it'd be better if it was free). Cricket also has a loyal fan base, albeit in lesser numbers than football. But Sky has got these rights wrapped up & nobody can compete with their monopoly. They'd outbid anyone for the World Cup & European Championships if they were made available.

    The point I'm trying to make is that one off events like the Grand National & Open Golf might be able to make it as pay-per-view events, but I don't believe the support is there in adequate numbers of potential subscribers for the other 'minority' sports to make it viable for any broadcaster to pay mega bucks for. Setanta Sports is a good example.

  • Comment number 53.

    IMO Things that should be protected for free to air viewing (not just on the BBC!) in no particular order:

    Wimbledon
    Football World Cup
    Rugby World Cup
    The Ashes (easily the most important cricket series to the UK a million times more important than the shorter games which were made for TV)
    The UK Open
    Olympics
    The FA Cup Final
    The Grand National
    The UEFA Champions League final
    At least highlights of all England/Scotland/Wales/N.Ireland games in major sports

    We have already lost one of those to Sky and I have spent the Ashes series listening on the radio. Would I pay to watch Wimbledon, The Open, The Grand National or most of the events in the Olympics? No probably not.

    Also a note must be made that free to air channels wont just mean BBC1-Channel 5 soon as everyone in the country will have to have digital soon so you could have the extra channels put games on there too (such as BBC3/ITV3/More4/Fiver)

  • Comment number 54.

    I don't see why it's up to the BBC to make the list of FTA? Does it consult with the other terrestrial channels? If the Olympics isn't kept on as FTA then the government will have failed the people yet again and will be another reason why people will get fatter as they might not see a sport they may like to take up. It doesn't have to stay on the BBC and could be broken up to all the other channels like ITV or Channel 5 as especially in the Winter Olympics the commentary is extremely poor with them not knowing the rules or even how over the last few years the participants have done.

    I agree that the BBC should have a sports channel and the conclusion you came up with that big events should be shown on BBC 1 could still apply and you might have it on 2 channels. Grandstand should be brought back as well so they can show what has been happening in all the minority sports that we did well in in the Olympics to keep the public's interest up and also help with the smaller federations coffers and profile.

  • Comment number 55.

    By the time all of this takes impact, the analogue switch-off will mean every working TV set in the country will receive BBC Three - as Matt1il points out so correctly. That in turn makes it easier to maintain a longer 'crown jewels' list - although perhaps only a few within that should be maintained for being on a 'terrestrial channel' if that's still where most 'ordinary Joes' go to see the big sporting moments? Let's assert an 'A list' that must be aired live on those channels and a 'B list' that must be aired live on any freely available channel (for which in practice read BBC Three or the BBC Sport channel proposed in post 42 - which may not be mutually exclusive as BBC Three airs only in the evenings and you could surely use that multiplex slot for sport outside of those hours if appropriate. Would be especially useful for London 2012, as it frees up one more red-button channel at a time when every single one of those will be valuable.)

    I'd put home nations' matches in football World Cups/European Championships and the Rugby World Cup on the A list, along with the FA Cup final, probably The Open and The Ashes, and definitely an extensive minimum level of Olympic coverage (because that is how you encourage a plurality of sports exposure). Given the cultural significance of the two, the National and the Derby could probably warrant A-list position too even though I would personally disagree. On the B-list you could then put the rest of FIFA/Rugby WCs and the football Euros, the World (and European?) Athletics Championships, home Tests not involving Australia, the Cricket World Cup and World Twenty20 finals and home nation matches in those tournaments.

    At least, that's my possible addition. This is no easy task but I hope that the universal availability of free-to-air digital channels post-2012 will allow for the protection of more events.

  • Comment number 56.

    Nick - the BBC doesn't make the list, these are just what it's contributed to the Government consultation, just as other broadcasters have made submissions. Roger links to Sky's in his blog, while C4's submission was reported on Broadcast: http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/c4-urges-protection-for-cricket-rights/5004162.article

    As many of us here have said though, this list is supposed to be about the crown jewels, not token gestures - so IMO as far as cricket goes it's The Ashes or nothing.

  • Comment number 57.

    I still do not understand why you all expect free anything. Nothing is free, it is just a question of who pays. Why should the taxpayer foot the bill?
    I would love all sport to be free but I have no realistic expectation that it will happen.
    The BBC license fee should be used on preserving the cultural activities that it does so well on Radio 3/4 and BBC2 as these will rarely attract sponsorship.
    If you want 'free-to-air' sport, then accept advertising between overs, sets etc. It is time for the BBC to take this step.

  • Comment number 58.

    I agree with the first response that a number of events which should have been on the BBC list are not and the organisation is taking a weak standing against the sporting authorities. The decision to include 1 day and 2020 cricket above the others is not to serve the public interest at all but to cash in on a sport which is disliked by the majority of cricket fans and certainly not held by anyone involved in the English game as on a par with test cricket. Complete nonsense for these unimportant tournaments to have made the list and home tests not to have, the Ashes should be the absolute minimum shown on free to air television. The PC inclusion of women's sports is also laughable as the standard of the cricket and football is so far below the men's that no-one wants to watch it. It appeals to a minority and is presumably very cheap anyway so does not need protecting.

    What needs to be shown live is the pinnacle of our main sports as a nation: cricket (test matches), football (internationals), rugby (internationals), tennis (wimbledon, ideally other slams too), olympics should be on the list. Highlights of the other main events too: british boxing, golf, f1 etc.

  • Comment number 59.

    Like many I was underwhelmed with the list that the BBC provided, although that's basically because of the lack of ambition on the cricket front. As one recent piece I read said, if antiques programmes and endless programmes on searching in the property market are more important than scheduling The Ashes then that's frankly outrageous in my opinion.

    However, aside from that rant, two things really: first, as this is intended as an Olympic blog I think it would be a shame if the event became fragmented, appearing on a variety of channels on free-to-air and subscription TV.

    Second, does the fact that a good number of people have entered into a debate on a sports blog not provide argument enough for the reinstatement of the Sports Editor's blog? Surely it should be down to the new Head of Sport to fight their corner here, though I am very grateful to Roger for his time in hearing everyone out and for the latest information on the listed events.

  • Comment number 60.

    With the encroaching 'decade of sport' about to happen in the UK, the success of these events will require large dedicated fanbases in order to be a success. By 2020 we will have hosted the Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games, Rugby League & Union World Cups and hopefully the FIFA World Cup, as well as a any number of other 'world' championships.

    As we are all about to move to 'digital' services I think it is time that SKY and other pay to view sports networks (ESPN/EuroSport etc) look at the future. There is absolutely no reason why SKY/ESPN/Virgin cannot broadcast parts of the Olympics, or other major sporting events live.....but it should be done 'free to air' on all platforms (cable/satelite/freeview/online). Yes this would mean the introduction of adverts (lord, how I hated them in F1) but I am sure that your dedicated fan of Olympic curling or skateboarding (or other lesser watched sports) would be long used to commercials on the likes of Eurosport anyway.

    I think the BBC need to be a little careful in asking for exclusivity to the rights of sporting events, as this would surely infringe European fair trading laws (and how we wouldn't want to upset them).

  • Comment number 61.

    I wish to state that with the "Decade of sport" on subscription TV, is not right in my opinion. As someone who is 1/2 English 1/2 Aust, the Ashes, as is Cricket generally, is very important. I do subscribe to sports channels. However, deep down I feel that the more sport on terrestrial channels (BBC, ITV et al) the better, sport where you don't have to pay a subscription for...

    Yes, I'm keen on F1 (BBC's coverage has strengths and weaknesses) and I'm generally happy with the change (with one or two exceptions). So, I hope to see cricket on BBC again. Please though, get as much sport as you can on the BBC and keep what you have. That is my opinion.

    I hope that the "Decade of sport" will be predominately on the BBC and other terrestrial channels.

  • Comment number 62.

    A couple of quick points:

    alphaMark1010 in #59 and others... The cricket scheduling argument has never been about whether it's better than some of the regular daytime programming. The problem is the clashes with other major events: World Cups and Olympics (there could be two Tests running during London 2012) and this year we saw an Ashes Test running at the same time as the Open Golf. So that's what I meant when, as head of sport, I said we'd need to resolve scheduling issues before we could think of returning to live cricket.

    IanMcCo in #60 and others who've made supportive comments --- important to stress we're NOT saying the BBC should have exclusivity. We're actually arguing the same as you: the key is top sport being available free-to-air through a range of suppliers, and not behind pay barriers.

    Thanks for all the other comments - read with interest, as ever.

  • Comment number 63.

    Agree with alpha mark about this blog showing sport editors needs to be reintroduced, a place to talk about the BBC's coverage of events, rather than just the event themselves. (Some shocking scheduling of the new football league highlights show for example, yet again showing sometimes ITV does handle these things better. Also I hear a rumour Wales on Saturday has been axed too - now that goes against recently announced plans for enhanced local sports coverage.)


    Back on topic, and in reply to you Roger although the World Cup and Olympics clash with test cricket in other years, they'd never clash with the Ashes series. Yes, this year one test did clash with the Open Golf, but we all know that should you hold both rights, the BBC and ECB would work together to try and avoid such scheduling clashes.

    Also even if your argument for the BBC not screening it did hold up, the BBC being unable to schedule it is no excuse for you not to suggest it's listed. I would expect the BBC more than any broadcaster to look beyond it's own interests in making their recommendation, and C4 and Five would be able to accommodate it - and heck, even ITV if they really wanted it.

    The BBC could do as you do have two terrestrial channels, though apart from Wimbledon seem increasingly reluctant to schedule sport on both channels, even if does mean dropping those antique trash programmes which all appear to be the same from the morning schedule. Heck, it would be 4 days out of a 4 year cycle - not much to ask, is it!


    Although some cricket fans of course would like all test matches protected, the views I've seen amongst more general sports fans (and clearly here too) is that only the Ashes needs to be listed. Certainly little call for the Cricket World Cup final and Twenty20 to be listed.


    And there is no argument it needs to be all or nothing - with the FA Cup and Rugby League Challenge Cup for example you only call for the final to be listed.

    As pretty much a non-football fan IMO there is a very strong argument for one match from each round (3rd round on) of the FA Cup to be listed, as that coverage is very much taken for granted at the moment - and should the story of the FA Cup be restricted to highlights (though I don't think even that is protected), the value of the final itself would be strongly diminished.


    I'd have also liked to have seen you call for the Rugby Union Premiership Final, Magners League Final and Heineken Cup Final to be protected to enhance coverage of club rugby in the UK.

  • Comment number 64.

    The tests wouldn't have to be on the BBC though, there are 3 other free to air channels. Just because the BBC don't want to show it doesn't make it less important. With digital television scheduling shouldn't really be an issue anyway, everyone will be made to have freeview at least in the next couple of years which means the BBC could just set up a dedicated sport channel if necessary, or just set up a channel for major events when they clash with others. I'm assuming the changes won't be coming in long before the digital switch over so scheduling shouldn't be a problem at all.

  • Comment number 65.

    Slightly O/T, but definitely agree with #57. The Sports Editors blog appears to have gone downhill sharply since you (Roger) left you're post - the new person in charge hasn't done a single blog yet which is quite frankly, disappointing.

    Even more annoying is that the sports editors blog link has been removed from the BBC Sport homepage, and really should be reinstated so people can voice their opinion.

  • Comment number 66.

    Points of interest for dog lovers and Olympic fans here ... http://funnypeculiarenglish.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 67.

    Further to #65, and I take no joy out of this whatsoever, but I predicted this in your final blog Roger in your previous role...
    It seems incredible to me that with one week to go before the footbal gets under way again in England there has been no blog about the Football League coverage. Odd too that it seems the BBC have rights to the big end of year tennis tournament in London and this has gone without a mention...I only know because it has appeared on the TV listings page! Roger you'd have been blogging about the good news before the ink was dry on the contract!! Can't you nag Barbara into action??

  • Comment number 68.

    Roger posts 65 and 67 are spot on-you Sir are the King of bloggers and have set the standards for blogs

    Barbara does not seem to care

  • Comment number 69.

    If say the BBC could show the second test series which would be mid July to the end of August I think the only possible clash would be the Open Golf.

    World cups wimbledon etc are all in june when its one day or T20 cricket.

    Also the second series coincides with the school hols which would be hugely beneficial to raising the profile of cricket with youngsters

    I think the minimum is The Ashes at home

  • Comment number 70.

    There are many things we would like to debate...why newcastle get on twice on TV in the new Football Leeague deal when Roger said, no team would appear twice...who made that decision?
    I think Roger that you should have taken both roles on, could have worked!
    Someone says it correct, you spoke before any deals were made!

  • Comment number 71.

    Today shows why The Ashes absolutely must be listed - the ratings tomorrow will show that at best a third of the audience who saw England win in 2005 saw it happen today on Sky Sports - and that's being very optimistic.

    The BBC saying they couldn't show it is rubbish too. OK, it wouldn't have been easy scheduling this weekend, but with a bit of help from the red button the BBC could have accommodated F1, The Ashes and the Athletics. May have been messy at times, but heck, they coped back in the eighties and nineties with just the two channels.

    Of course though this isn't an issue about just the BBC - it's about wider FTA, and certainly with digital switch-over even if Sky hold the rights they could still screen The Ashes live on Sky Three, perhaps keeping the build up and lunchtime coverage exclusive to Sky Sports.

  • Comment number 72.

    P.S. Really enjoyed the athletics coverage this week. I'd fallen out of love with the sport somewhat in recent years, but this week has been the best World Championships in years, mainly thanks to Usain Bolt, but also down to an improved performance from the Brits, who aren't just coming home with excuses this year.

    P.P.S. We really need an edit button on these blogs!

  • Comment number 73.

    Unfortunately viewers in Northern Ireland were offered no world athletics coverage on Sunday afternoon, not even on the red button. Having invested nine days watching the BBC's superb coverage why did they shoot themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion. Can we get rid of BBC Northern Ireland. I know the BBc is cutting down so this would be a great palce to start before 2012. I dread to think what BBC NI will do with the Olympics!

 

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