Protect Six Nations for free-to-air TV, Welsh MP says
The Six Nations should be granted upgraded status to ensure it remains on free-to-air television, a Welsh MP has told the Commons.
Ofcom’s rules require full coverage of certain major sporting events is offered to free-to-air broadcasters if they are in the regulator’s “group A” top tier of protected events.
The Six Nations is currently listed by Ofcom as a “group B” event, meaning the live coverage could be shown on a paid-for service so long as “secondary coverage” is offered to free-to-air broadcasters.
The BBC’s outgoing director of sport, Barbara Slater, reportedly told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee this week it is “incredibly difficult” for the broadcaster to maintain its current level of rights for sports.
Warning the costs of broadcast rights have increased while BBC funding has dropped in real-terms, Ms Slater could not offer guarantees over whether the rugby tournament will be given full coverage on free-to-air TV in future.
The annual tournament has to date always been wholly available free to air in the UK.
Labour MP Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) told the Commons the tournament should be protected for free-to-air TV, with a number of MPs present in the chamber signalling their agreement.
He said: “Quite rightly this country maintains a list of the crown jewels of sports and our sporting heritage and culture with the listed events regime.
“But the Six Nations rugby tournament is not on that list. Most people would think it was, but every few years the danger of it falling out of free-to-air television broadcast comes along and it’s with us again after our session with the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) select committee this week.
“Isn’t it about time the Government added the Six Nations rugby tournament, which is a festival of friendship across these islands and in Europe, to the listed events regime?”
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt noted Mr Brennan’s suggestion “got a lot of support from across the House”.
She said: “It is the most fantastic tournament of friendship, but also friendly rivalries too. I will certainly make sure that the Secretary of State for DCMS has heard his suggestion.”
If granted the top tier of protected status, the Six Nations would sit alongside events such as the Olympic Games and the men’s and women’s football World Cups.
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