Davies work wasted as Minister kicks TV listed events review into touch
KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications
LONDON, Jul 22: The long-awaited revision of British sports' listed TV events must be awaited for even longer after the Government used the excuse of the digital switchover as a means to avoid a confrontation with some sports, notably cricket.
The listed events are those considered of such national social significance that they should be broadcast on free-to-air television channels. The previous Labour Government had commissioned former broadcaster and Football Association executive David Davies to lead an independent review of the categories which were last defined in 1998.
Davies reported back last November that the Ashes cricket series should return to free-to-air television, along with England's World Cup home and away qualification matches, the Open golf championship, Wimbledon tennis and the Rugby World Cup.
However his proposals upset a number of sports' governing bodies whch feared a significant loss if income if they were deprived of the right to take their top events into the TV rights auction ring.
The status quo comprises of two categories of protected events.
Group A - the so-called 'crown jewels' which must appear on free-to-air TV - are: the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, the European Championships, The FA Cup final, the Scottish Cup final in Scotland, the Grand National, the Wimbledon tennis finals, the Rugby World Cup final, the Derby, the rugby league Challenge Cup final.
Group B events must be shown at least in highlights form on free-to-air television. They are: cricket Test matches played in England, non-finals play at Wimbledon, Rugby World Cup matches outside the final, Six Nations matches involving home countries, the Commonwealth Games, the World Athletics Championships, the Cricket World Cup final semi-final and matches involving home nations teams, the Ryder Cup and golf's Open Championship.
As well as making additions to Group A, Davies had recommended abolishing Group B entirely.
Change of plan
His proposals were criticised by Hugh Robertson, the new Sports and Olympics minister, when in Opposition. Robertson has now put off a revision decision until the end of the digital switchover process in 2012.
Robertson said: "I fully support the principle of protecting major sports events for free-to-air coverage. But with Digital Switchover concluding in 2012, this will result in the widespread availability of a significantly-increased number of television channels, many of which will be free to air.
"Add to this the BBC's Strategy Review, which will cover sports rights, and the Ofcom Pay TV Review, and the broadcasting context for this decision is increasingly unclear. The current economic climate also points to us not making a decision at this time which could adversely impact on sport at the grassroots.
"I have therefore decided to defer any review until 2013, when we will look at this again."
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