Major hints at challenge to BSkyB sports

Screen scrap: Murdoch's increasing dominance of key events may be target for new legislation

MATHEW HORSMAN

Media Editor

Rupert Murdoch's dominance of televised sports may become the target of new legislation, John Major, the Prime Minister, hinted yesterday.

The news sent shares in BSkyB, Mr Murdoch's 40 per cent-owned satellite broadcaster, down 7p to 413p, amid growing concerns that his lucrative near-monopoly might come under direct attack.

In his first public comment on the controversial issue of sport rights, Mr Major said the Government was considering ways of further protecting the handful of top sporting events that are still broadcast on terrestrial television.

"This is an interesting debate," Mr Major told BBC's Breakfast News, "and it is one that is under consideration at the moment, but no conclusions have been reached."

To date, both leading parties have shied away from criticising Mr Murdoch, whose stable of newspapers has been influential during election campaigns.

BSkyB has secured the rights to all Premier League Football matches, Rugby League and a share of the Football League. Under current legislation, a handful of events cannot be broadcast exclusively on a pay-per-view basis. These include the FA Cup Final and certain Wimbledon tennis matches. However, the current rules do not prevent the listed events from being broadcast on pay-TV - for instance, BSkyB's Sky Sports network, which is available on a subscription basis only via satellite or cable.

Last year, several media companies lobbied the Government to include firmer protection of listed events in the new Broadcasting Bill, which will receive a second reading in the House of Lords in two weeks. However, the draft version of the legislation did not include any references to sport rights.

Mr Murdoch's dominance of sport is the target of an inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading, which is also reviewing the terms under which BSkyB makes its own channels available to the cable industry.

The BBC has also expressed privately its concern over Mr Murdoch's growing monopoly, although the public service broadcaster has teamed up with BSkyB to broadcast Match of the Day - highlights of Premier League matches.

New legislation on listed events would have to be balanced by other concerns, according to the Government. Few want to return to the days of a duopoly made up of the BBC and ITV, which served to limit the amount of money flowing to professional sports.

With the entry of Mr Murdoch's broadcasting service, the value of sport contracts has soared to record levels. Sky claims it has improved the coverage of sporting events.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss