The BBC, ITV, Channel 5, STV and S4C have urged the Government to proceed with new legislation that will ensure key sporting events remain free for all viewers.
Earlier this year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published a White Paper that proposed updating and strengthening the rules surrounding “Crown Jewel” sports events, including the Olympics and FIFA World Cup.
But there are fears that the proposed legislation could be dropped this autumn following changes at the top of Government.
An open letter signed by UK public service broadcasters, except Channel 4, was published in the Daily Telegraph. Channel 4 didn’t sign, as the same piece of legislation proposes its privatisation.
In the letter, broadcasters said a media bill was needed “to secure the future of British Broadcasting and allow it to prosper.”
Current broadcasting rules covering sports events were first introduced in 1996 and currently only reflect traditional TV broadcasts. As broadcasting rights deal evolve to cover online, mobile and other digital formats, broadcasters fear coverage will increasingly slide behind a paywall.
What the White Paper said:
Looking at making qualification for the listed events regime a benefit specific to our public service broadcasters, in recognition of the key role that they play in distributing content which is both distinctively British and of interest to British audiences, and recognising that all current services that qualify for the listed events regime are operated by public service broadcasters. We will also undertake a review to look at whether the scope of the listed events regime should be extended to include digital rights.
The White Paper also proposed extending prominence given to public broadcasters to their on-demand services. And it also contained plans to allow local Freeview multiplexes to remain on air until 2034, plus provisions to fund the NImux in Northern Ireland. NImux rebroadcasts RTÉ One, RTÉ2 and TG4 north of the border.