BSkyB criticizes gov't plans for sport

Protected events list is a 'tax on sport,' CEO says

LONDON -- BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch has hit out at government plans to keep some of the U.K.'s most popular sports events on terrestrial television, arguing that forbidding pay operators to bid for them "restricts freedom of choice" and diminishes the value of sports broadcast rights.

Speaking as the culture department begins an official review of the current policy -- which restricts such key events as the Wimbledon Tennis Championships final and the FA Cup final soccer match to terrestrial channels only -- BSkyB said the process took power away from the rights holders.

"Listing an event against the wishes of a sports body means that it becomes a forced seller of its rights and denies it the ability to get a fair deal from its chosen broadcast partners," BSkyB said in its submission to the government department of culture, media and sport.

"This amounts to a tax on sport to subsidize terrestrial broadcasters," the satcaster added.

The review comes at a sensitive time for the pay TV broadcaster, which has been criticized for buying up the live television rights to English Test Cricket, which are now only available to Sky Sports subscribers. The current review will likely look at putting English Test Cricket back on the "crown-jewels" list of protected events.

The pay TV platform also looks very powerful compared to its main rival in the U.K., the pay TV channel operator Setanta Sports, which is facing bankruptcy after failing to make a £3 million ($4.9 million) payments for sports rights to Scottish soccer body the Scottish Premier League and defaulting on a further £40 million ($65 million) payment to the English Premier League for additional rights to top flight soccer.

But Darroch defended the satcaster, speaking at a sports marketing event Tuesday.

"There is no need for a major sporting event to be listed in order for it to feature on free-to-air television -- just look at Formula 1, Six Nations Rugby or Premier League soccer highlights for proof," he added."
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