ITV welcomes sports rights review

Friday, November 13 2009,

ITV has "warmly welcomed" recommendations by an advisory panel that the Ashes and home nation football qualifiers should join a list of sporting events protected on free-to-air TV.

The review panel - led by former FA executive director David Davies - today recommended that home Ashes tournaments should rejoin the list, along with all home nation football qualifiers for the World Cup and European Championship.

The panel further called for the entire Wimbledon tournament, the Open golf championship and rugby union internationals in Wales to join the list of events carrying "special national resonance".

Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw and sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe will now hold a 12-week consultation to examine the panel's conclusions.

In response, ITV immediately praised the review as it believes that certain events of "national significance" should be safeguarded for the public, regardless of whether they are able to pay to watch them.

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade described the review panel's recommendations as "good news" for viewers.

"In particular, we welcome the recommendation that national football qualification games should be given equal status to those during the World Cup and European Championship finals, and the proposed addition of the whole Rugby World Cup tournament," he added.

"Digital switchover is not closing the huge gulf that exists between the reach of free-to-air and pay TV. 20 million plus audiences for these events on ITV and BBC are simply not achievable on pay television. We look forward to engaging with the government over the consultation period."