White Paper on the BBC: Widening battleground for the big fixtures

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The Independent Online
WHETHER or not the rules on sporting rights are tightened to protect eight main events, there are still many major spectacles for which satellite broadcasters can bid.

MPs want the list reviewed regularly to make sure terrestrial TV viewers do not become too deprived; they will have to watch over a widening battleground.

Golf's Open Championship is one omission from the sacred eight, and BSkyB has already declared a more than serious interest in the sport by snapping up the Ryder Cup, the American golf tour and sections of the European tour.

Sky Sports is also moving into a traditional BBC preserve - rugby union. It will screen live club games next season, and neither the Five Nations' Championship - the cornerstone of Grandstand for 10 weeks in the winter - nor the World Cup are protected.

In football, the list does not include England's internationals, the League Cup final, domestic and European club competitions, or - most significantly - the 1996 European Championship finals, to be staged in England.

Horse racing possesses tempting plums in the Cheltenham Festival, which has just switched to Channel 4 after nearly 40 years on the BBC, and Royal Ascot; athletics has world and European championships and motor racing the British Grand Prix and entire Formula One circus. Snooker's world championship is also passed over.

In cricket, England's Test matches abroad have been the province of Sky for four years, while there are also the NatWest and Benson and Hedges finals and World Cup to be considered.

The Commonwealth Games, and the host of 'minor' sports like showjumping, are also absent.

If sports - and armchair spectators - want to see what the unprotected future has in store, they should look at boxing. Its big fights have been horse-traded on a regular basis, the latest deal being Chris Eubank's move from ITV, where he was watched regularly by 13 million people, to Sky.

----------------------------------------------------------------- VIEWING OF INDIVIDUAL SPORTS ON THE TERRESTRIAL CHANNELS ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1993 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Hours and BBC 1 BBC 2 ITV CH 4 minutes ----------------------------------------------------------------- Football 421.35 31 4 37 28 Horse racing 306.45 23 11 - 66 Cricket 285.5 36 63 - - Snooker 269.25 17 58 26 - Golf 180.25 28 58 7 7 Tennis 175.55 8 68 - 4 Rugby Union 135.25 40 29 31 - Athletics 88.35 28 35 29 8 American football 71.30 - - - 100 Boxing 58 27 - 72 1 Motor sport 56.25 25 49 21 5 Wrestling 39 - 3 97 - Basketball 31.30 2 7 84 7 Skiing 20.20 15 77 3 5 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Source: Sportscan/Sports Marketing Surveys l993 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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