TV rights saga October 19, 2005

MPs to hold enquiry into satellite deal

Cricinfo staff

MPs are to hold an enquiry into the ECB's decision to sell the broadcasting rights of cricket to satellite television.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee will question ECB officials and broadcasters at Westminster on November 29. Speaking to the newspaper, the chairman of the committee, John Whittingdale, said: "There is still considerable controversy over the deal and differing accounts. I think it will be helpful to give the opportunity to all parties to state their position."

The debate to remove terrestrial coverage of cricket in the UK continues to rumble on, almost a year after the original announcement was made. The committee will also take evidence from the former ECB chairman, Lord McLaurin, and Chris Smith, the former culture secretary, who negotiated a "gentleman's agreement" over the rights in 1999. Effectively, the deal allowed the ECB to partially sell rights to satellite broadcasters, but only on the basis that the majority of Test cricket would remain on terrestrial channels.

The ECB have continued to defend themselves vehemently, stating that no terrestrial television company had offered more than 35% of the rights. Earlier this month, Colin Gibson, the ECB's communication director, told the BBC: "The television revenue makes up 80% of our income. Had we not accepted the bid from Sky, who are a quality cricket broadcaster, we would have been faced with cuts of up to 40% in all areas of the game. This would have affected every level from grassroots right up to the England team."