January 23, 2009

Television

Free-to-air or not?

Nishi Narayanan
Kevin Pietersen larks about behind one of the Sky TV cameras as rain washed out the third morning, England v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Trent Bridge, June 6, 2008
 © PA Photos
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In England a review of which sports should be shown live on free-to-air TV has begun. In the Guardian Owen Gibson explains how it will shape what British viewers watch, and if they will have to pay for it, in the decade ahead.

The England and Wales Cricket Board's decision in 2004 to hand exclusive live coverage of domestic Tests to Sky was greeted with howls of protest from MPs and the Keep Cricket Free lobby. They felt the ECB had broken the spirit of an earlier "­gentlemen's agreement". But the ECB said the proceeds of the deal would enable it to dramatically increase investment in the sport at all levels. The argument become even more ­fractious after England won the Ashes in 2005, just before the new deal kicked in. The ECB's decision to renew its contract with Sky and Five, which shows highlights, until 2013 took the rancour to new levels. After last summer accepting a £300m bid from Sky, the ECB chairman Giles Clarke said it had made every effort to divide the rights into multiple packages so broadcasters could bid for a single Test, one-day international or Twenty20, and hit out at the BBC for not bidding.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

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