Tuesday 9 September 2008

We should all be able to watch England on TV

Rupert Murdoch once said that 'sports rights are the battering ram of pay TV'.

Now Setanta Sports are trying to prove that by refusing to sell a highlights package to BBC or ITV for the England World Cup qualifying away games for which it has exclusive live rights, including the crucial away game in Croatia in which many England fans would settle for a scrappy draw.

Labour MP John Grogan is calling for the protected list of sporting events to include highlights of World Cup qualifiers.

It is a tricky situation to resolve because the rights are sold by the Football Associations in Andorra, Croatia and Belarus. The English FA only holds the rights for home games, where the competitive games will be live on ITV (with highlights on Setanta) and friendly matches live on Setanta (with highlights on ITV). I wrote about the need for a new UEFA-wide regulatory approach to TV rights in a Foreign Policy Centre pamphlet on sporting governance back at the time of the Sydney Olympics.

But the lack of coverage has not gone down well with England supporters and the aggressive tactics could prove a PR nightmare for the broadcaster.

And I have a rant about this over at Comment is Free.

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