Government delays ‘crown jewels’ TV decision until 2013

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The UK government has deferred a decision on whether the Ashes will return to terrestrial TV until 2013

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The UK government has deferred a decision on whether the Ashes will return to terrestrial television until 2013.

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said the decision would now be made after the completion of the digital switchover process which is ongoing throughout the country.

Robertson yesterday indicated the government opposed the recommendations of an independent review in November last year which called for an expansion of the so called ‘crown jewels’ of British sport.

But he also suggested the government might work to encourage the major televised sports such as cricket and football to put 30% of their television earnings back into grass roots sport.

Today’s decision however means that the list will remain as is has done since 1998.

“I fully support the principle of protecting major sports events for free-to-air coverage,” said Robinson.

“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.

“If we were to make a decision now we’d almost certainly have to review after digital switchover.”

The current list of protected sports includes events such as the Olympics, the football and rugby World Cups and the Wimbledon tennis championships.

The review recommended events including home Ashes series and home football internationals join the existing list.

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