Sport on TV and radio
Investing in sport on free to air TV
Sport provides broadcasting with a unique offering. Unlike other forms of entertainment, sport can clearly drive traffic to radio, TV and websites. Other types of programming cannot match sport's positioning and therefore terrestrial TV should continue to invest in sport. The reasons for the value of sport broadcasting rights are:
- Sports rights are unique - there are a fixed number of matches
- Sport is nearly always watched live - little danger of recording games and fast forwarding means that sport alone can drive traffic to TV, radio and websites
- Ratings are almost guaranteed - unlike scripted programmes, it is easy to predict the audiences.
Bidding for major events
Many national governing bodies rely on media rights to reinvest into grassroots sport.
The Government's listed events ensures that certain competitions are only shown on free-to-air TV.
A reduction in public service broadcaster budgets could create a non-competitive market for listed events.
This has a direct impact on grassroots sport through the Alliance’s voluntary code of conduct, which commits signatories to reinvesting at least 30% of domestic television broadcasting revenue into the grassroots.
Coverage of smaller events
The Alliance believes that the BBC has a vital role in championing smaller sports, especially around the Olympics.
Coverage of smaller events is clearly a vacuum which commercial broadcasters are unlikely to fill, so there is a compelling public service broadcasting logic here.
Some sports realise that they are unlikely to sell (or even to give away) broadcast rights for their events but have reasonable expectations that a public service broadcaster should, from time to time, cover results of major events like national championships or special international achievements.
Coverage of sport on the radio
Sport binds communities together and local sports coverage and local needs should be considered of vital importance.
Prospect of shared broadcasting
The Alliance is concerned that local level sports coverage on the BBC could be shared. Local audiences wish to hear local commentary with expert opinion on their local team, rather than, for example, a London-bias commentary for matches in the capital.
Tailored programming should be offered to take into account local cultural differences across the UK.
Coverage of women’s sport
There is simply not enough coverage of women's sport on the TV. The importance of role models in women’s sport cannot be underestimated.
Netball’s deal with Sky Sports has proven that women’s team sports are viable for sports broadcasters but, despite this success and the fact that the women’s FA Cup final is now regularly televised and achieving 1.5 million viewers, coverage of women’s sport on television, online and in newspapers is minimal.
Planned changes to BBC coverage
At the end of 2011 the BBC published its proposals for its future content which saw large cuts across the board.
The Alliance was particulalry concerned with the cuts to local radio provision- in particular the proposals to share programming which could have come at the expense of many sports broadcasts.
We worked with many sports to campaign against the proposed changes.
The BBC Trust agreed with many of the principles the Alliance and its members campaigned on. Lord Patten announced that “Audience reactions have been strongest against the proposal to share across regions” and recommended that BBC executives, rather than homogenising output, instead find ways to protect “more specialist and distinctive local content” on radio stations throughout the day.
In particular the trust had asked the BBC to review three key areas.
- to scale back plans for local radio to share programmes in the afternoon
- to ensure that local stations have "an adequately staffed newsroom"
- to protect specialist content outside peak times - for example local sports or specialist music shows.
In parallel with Lord Patten’s speech, the Delivering Quality First interim findings were also been published, which request that:
“ways are found to continue to protect more specialist and distinctive local content out of peak.
"Alongside local news and information, the evening and weekend schedules of many local radio stations carry unique or specialist local content that is of particular value to their audience – for instance sports coverage that has a particular resonance in a particular area such as rugby league and football”.
The Alliance will continue to work with sports as the BBC develops its final strategy.
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