Winning back the Ashes a ‘priority’ for the BBC

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta
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The BBC has 'welcomed' the Davies Panel's recommendations

Former FA executive director David Davies believes that the BBC should “dig deep” in order to win the rights to broadcast important national sporting events.

Davies fronted a panel that reviewed which events should be selected for broadcasting on free-to-air television platforms.

If the panel’s recommendations are adopted, showpiece events such as England’s home Ashes Tests and the national football team’s home and away qualifiers would have to be broadcast on channels without requiring a subscription.

The protected list of events also includes the Summer Olympics, the whole of Wimbledon and the FA Cup final (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).

Dropped from list are the Winter Olympics, flat racing’s showpiece the Epsom Derby, and rugby league’s Challenge Cup final.

When asked if the BBC should do more to win the rights to broadcast the home Ashes Tests, Davies said: “The BBC has a responsibility to give a high priority to such events, and this should be recognised by the corporation in its current review of its size and scope.”

After conducting a survey, the panel also revealed the results of a poll in which 82% of viewers felt that they had a right to watch certain events on free-to-air channels because they had already paid a TV licence fee.

The panel’s recommendations are likely to trigger a negative reaction from many of the world’s sporting bodies who have warned they could lose millions, with some considering legal action.

BSkyB and ESPN have also been urged to consider showing a small number of events on free-to-air channels in order to increase competition with the BBC.

A statement from the BBC said it backs “the principle that it is in the public’s interest to protect events of national importance to ensure they remain free-to-air,” and that the BBC welcomed the Davies Panel’s recommendations.

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