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Irish government to review protected free-to-air events

The Irish government is set to undertake a review of the showpiece sporting events that are protected for free-to-air broadcasting in the country.

The review, which takes place every three years, invites members of the pubic to have their say on which sporting events should remain on the list.

This latest consultation on Ireland’s free-to-air events takes place in the aftermath of the Gaelic Athletics Association’s controversial decision to award a rights package for its hurling and Gaelic football competitions to pay-television broadcaster BSkyB.

In April, Sky, public-service broadcaster RTÉ, pay-television broadcaster Setanta Sports and Irish-language free-to-air broadcaster TG4 were awarded rights for the GAA in Ireland in four-year deals from 2014 to 2017.

Commercial broadcaster TV3 missed out at Sky’s expense during the GAA tender and its group director Niall Cogley offered fresh criticism ahead of the review, which will be led by Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources minister Pat Rabbitte.

Cogley told the Irish Independent newspaper: “While we respect the qualities that Sky and other pay-TV services bring, we note that its current coverage of GAA is virtually identical to TV3's previous coverage, using the same cameras, same production teams and same panellists. The only difference is the coverage was free for citizens on TV3.”

At present, the protected events are the All-Ireland senior inter-county Gaelic football and hurling finals; the summer Olympic Games; Ireland’s international football games in qualification for and possible participation in the Uefa European Championship and Fifa World Cup; the opening games, semi-finals and finals of those tournaments and Ireland’s matches at the Rugby World Cup finals.

Additionally, the list also includes a selection of equine events, namely the Irish Grand National, the Irish Derby, the Nations Cup and the Dublin Horse Show.