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Welsh Affairs Committee calls for Six Nations to be protected on free-to-air TV

27 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Wales’ players line up during the national anthem before the Guinness Six Nations match against Italy last season. Photo David Davies, PA Images

The UK Government should ensure the Six Nations remains on free-to-air television by placing the tournament in the top bracket of its listed events, the Welsh Affairs Committee has said.

The annual tournament has to date always been wholly available free to air in the UK, but is not protected from remaining so in the future, in the same way that the Olympic Games and the men’s and women’s football World Cups and European Championships are, by virtue of being Group A listed events.

The committee insists it is time that changed to help Welsh rugby “rediscover its soul”, in a new report published on Friday.

“Live sports broadcasting should strive to reach the widest possible audience, which is best achieved through free-to-air coverage. This is especially so for Welsh rugby union, which needs to rediscover its soul and aim to reach the maximum number of people in Wales,” the report said.

“We do not believe that the listed events regime currently accurately reflects the importance placed by supporters on certain competitions.

“We recommend that the Government adds the Six Nations to Group A of the Listed Sporting Events, to ensure its status on terrestrial TV.”

The committee also said reports that the Rugby World Cup could move behind a paywall were “worrying”. Currently, only the final of that tournament is a listed event.

Welsh language commentary

The committee also recommended that the remit of broadcasting regulator Ofcom be amended to ensure it can designate listed events, and specified non-listed events, as requiring live Welsh language commentary, including Wales matches at Euro 2028, which Wales will co-host.

The Football Association of Wales was asked to write to the committee before February next year to outline the representations it is making to UEFA concerning continued coverage of the national team’s qualifiers on free-to-air Welsh language channel S4C.

The channel had an agreement in place with streaming service Viaplay to show Wales’ matches in the next two Nations League campaigns, their 2026 World Cup qualifiers and their Euro 2028 qualifiers.

However, Viaplay has since announced its withdrawal from the UK market, and the committee wants the FAW to work with UEFA to ensure that whichever broadcaster buys the rights, the agreement with S4C is replicated.

The committee also said it was “disappointed” that no Welsh event was currently part of the Group A list, and called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Government and broadcasters to discuss how the listed events regime could be amended to support a specific list of Welsh events.

A DCMS spokesperson said: “It is vital that broadcasters promote Welsh culture and language through their content. That’s why we’ve included measures in our draft Media Bill to encourage more Welsh language programming and ensure it is easier to discover on smart TVs and streaming sticks.

“The Government’s objective is to ensure the biggest sporting events are made available to the public throughout the UK which is why we have the listed events regime.

“While we have no plans to review the sporting moments covered by our listed events rules, our ongoing digital rights review is considering whether expanding the rules to cover digital platforms would improve access to these events.”

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5 months ago

They really need to be protected. There is a lot of money out there that can out bid UK broadcasters many times over but they must have minimum HD standards for transmission (no SD only) with the possibility of 4k options. Secondary rights also need in house options to run alongside whoever takes up highlights packages.

5 months ago

I agree that the Six Nations should be protected, shouldn’t that also include the Rugby World Cup as well?

5 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Rugby went professional nearly 30 years ago. I’m surprised it’s taken so long for the greed to really ramp up and set out to shove everything behind a paywall. RWC 2023 has given us a number of good matches sadly clouded by often poor ITV commentariat. S4C coverage better although some of the supporting talking heads on there left much to be desired sounding more like a bar room conversation than articulate analysis. However a lot of rugby has been reduced to slugfest between overdeveloped big boys with reduced scope for guile and ability to avoid rather than collide. If… Read more »

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