The UK government has added the summer and winter Paralympic Games to the so-called ‘crown jewels’ list of sporting events reserved for free-to-air broadcast.
The Paralympic Games are now classified as a ‘Group A event’, which means live rights must be offered to free-to-air broadcasters at a fair and reasonable cost.
The decision followed a consultation process involving the International Paralympic Committee, the telecommunications regulator Ofgem, public broadcasters the BBC and S4C, and commercial broadcaster Channel 4, which currently holds the rights in the UK to the Paralympic Games.
It is the first change to the listed-events regime in more than twenty years.
The government has also consulted on adding the women’s equivalents of men’s events already on the list, with a final decision to be made “in due course”, it said.
The subject of free-to-air coverage of sports events had returned to the table in recent months following strong audience figures for last year’s Women’s World Cup. According to the BBC, which held the rights to that tournament, 28.1 million people in the UK watched at least 15 minutes or more through linear or digital means.
Proponents of the addition of women’s sports and the Paralympics to the ‘crown jewels’ had argued their inclusion would ensure the list better reflected the diversity of sporting talent.
Events on the ‘crown jewels’ list must be broadcast on linear channels that are available to 95 per cent of the population. These channels include: BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four, BBC News, ITV, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, Channel 4, More 4, and Channel 5.
Alongside the Paralympics, other Group A events include: the Olympic Games; men’s Fifa World Cup; Uefa European Championships; FA Cup final; Scottish Cup final (in Scotland); Grand National; Derby; Wimbledon finals; Challenge Cup final; and Rugby World Cup final.
Group B, for which only highlights are protected for free-to-air coverage, includes: cricket Test matches played in England; non-finals matches at Wimbledon; all other matches at the Rugby World Cup; Six Nations games involving home countries; Commonwealth Games; World Athletics Championships; the final, semi-final and matches involving ‘home nations’ at the Cricket World Cup; Ryder Cup; and Open Championship.