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Welsh rugby internationals could be added to protected list for free-to-air TV coverage

20 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Wales’ Gareth Davies scores against England. Photo Ben Whitley/PA Wire.

Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter

Wales rugby matches could be added to a list of sports that must be shown on free-to-air TV if the Senedd called for the change.

Sir John Whittingdale, the UK’s minister for media, tourism and creative industries, told the Senedd he would consider adding Welsh rugby to the list of sporting events which must be shown on terrestrial TV channels.

Llyr Gruffydd asked about sports broadcasting rights and the relative importance of rugby in Wales, raising concerns about autumn internationals being shown on Amazon Prime.

“There’s even been mention, potentially, of the next Rugby World Cup going the same way,” warned the Plaid Cymru MS for North Wales.

“Clearly, if you look at the viewing figures in Wales, rugby is right up there – and, in terms of public service, surely there should be greater protection for that in Wales.”

Sir John said it is a difficult balance and restricting the potential bidders to only the public service broadcasters is a big limitation on the amount of money that can be raised.

He pointed out that Six Nations matches, involving the home nations, as well as the World Cup final are already among Ofcom’s listed events that must be freely available.

The Tory MP stressed it is not necessarily in the best interests of a sport to just maximise income but he was reluctant to tell sporting authorities who they can sell rights to.

Appearing before the Senedd’s culture committee on Thursday October 19, he said: “I think it would be quite difficult to say, for instance, that rugby matches involving Wales should have a different level of protection to rugby matches involving England.

“I think rugby is attracting rather a lot of attention at the moment in England.

“I’m not sure it would be right to try to distinguish between the importance of a sport in one part of the UK as against another.”

However, he told MSs the UK Government would revisit listed events, saying “it’s not closed”.

Reserved

Sir John said: “While broadcasting is reserved, sport is not and we have always said if the Welsh Parliament argued strongly that for the good of sport in Wales that we needed to look again at the list of protected events, we would look at it certainly.”

Alun Davies pointed out that the Scottish Cup Final is reserved for live broadcast on terrestrial TV: “So I think the argument that different countries have different interests is already accepted. There is a place in the national psyche that is taken up by sport.”

The Labour MS for Blaenau Gwent – a member of Glamorgan County Cricket Club – warned of a decline in cricket, “at least partly as a consequence of its lack of visibility”.

“I think the UK Government has a responsibility to sport, community and the country which goes beyond simply maximising individual profit,” he said.


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Gwyn
Gwyn
6 months ago

The difficulty with adding Welsh sporting fixtures to the “Listed Events” is that the 1996 Broadcasting Act insists that the broadcasts can be seen by 95% of the UK free to air audience. this would not be possible if the games are shown on S4C or BBC Wales. Therefore this needs primary legislation to amend it.

Rob
Rob
6 months ago
Reply to  Gwyn

The Scottish Cup Final is a listed event but only in Scotland, whereas the English FA Cup Final is a listed event only in EnglandandWales. Therefore if Welsh rugby was added it would probably be in Wales only. People can easily get around this by going to a different region on your Satellite Box. I can remember back in the 2000s when digital TV was fairly new technology BBC Scotland could only show the Scottish Cup final on its analogue channel. Sky Sports wanted all the revenue to by stopping viewers in England or Wales watching it via BBC. The… Read more »

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
6 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Rugby is no longer our National sport- as reported by Nation Cymru Football has long since replaced it

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