The Great Debate UK

Should major sporting events be reserved for free-to-air TV?

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Steven Barnett-Steven Barnett is professor of communications at the University of Westminster and has written extensively about the Sky deal and cricket for the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. The opinions expressed are his own.-

David Davies’ review panel on UK sport’s “crown jewels” – the list of sporting events which have to be reserved for free-to-air television – has proposed adding significantly to the existing list of 10 events.

Most controversially it wants to see cricket’s Ashes Test matches, part of the package sold to Sky five years ago, back on mainstream television. Given its terms of enquiry, the Davies panel’s report was bound to be either lame or contentious. Thankfully, they have chosen contentious.

We’ll be hearing some cries of anguish from Sky over the next few weeks, but that’s to be expected. BSkyB’s hugely successful business model depends on exclusive access to sport, and you can’t blame Rupert Murdoch for understanding long ago the commodity value of exclusive live sport on television. He famously told an annual meeting of News Corp in 1996 that sport was to be the “battering ram” for expansion of his global pay television network.

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