I have written today to the BBC, S4C, Ofcom and the International Paralympic Committee in a limited consultation on adding the Paralympic games to the listed events regime. I have also copied the letter to Channel 4 which currently holds the broadcasting rights for the next Paralympic games in Tokyo 2020, to other eligible free-to-air broadcasters, and to the Sport and Recreation Alliance.
The Broadcasting Act 1996 gives the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport discretion to designate sporting and other events of national interest as listed events. Once listed, broadcasting rights to such events must be offered to the main free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters (“qualifying broadcasters”) on fair and reasonable terms. Qualifying broadcasters are those which reach 95% coverage of UK viewers and at no additional cost to the viewer than the television licence fee. Broadcasters currently meeting these criteria are BBC1, BBC2, ITV1 and Channel 4.
The current list, compiled in 1998, consists of two categories of events:
Group A, in which full live coverage must be offered to the qualifying broadcasters; and
Group B, in which live coverage may be broadcast on subscription television as long as secondary coverage is offered to qualifying broadcasters.
Under section 97 of the Broadcasting Act 1996, the Secretary of State is able to amend the list providing that they have consulted with the statutory consultees. In my letter I have asked consultees to consider the following:
whether, based on the guidance and criteria given, the Paralympic games should be added to the list;
whether the Paralympic games should be listed under group A or group B of the list;
other factors affecting the likely costs and benefits to the sport concerned, to the broadcasting industry and to viewers, as set out in the guidance on the criteria for listing; and
any other factors relevant to the final decision.
While the Government do not wish to reopen the list of events for a full review, we are committed to supporting more equality in the coverage of sport on TV, and in particular, disability and women in sport. It is for this reason that I am considering whether to exercise discretion to add the Paralympics to the list, and that I intend on holding a consultation later this year on adding women’s sporting equivalent events to the regime that match the men’s events.
I will inform the House of the outcome once I have discussed fully with statutory consultees.