Review confirms Ashes as free-to-air choice

The Ashes are one step closer to returning to free-to-air television after an independent review recommended the iconic series be returned to the list of British sport's 'Crown Jewels'.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport this morning published the recommendations of the inquiry headed by David Davies, the former executive director of the Football Association.

The Ashes was last broadcast free-to-air in 2005 and, with Sky contracted to screen the 2013 series, a 2016 return looks most likely.

Also recommended for a return to the list are all of England's home and away qualification matches for the football World Cup and European Championships.

Also on the new 'A' list of events are The Open golf championship, the entire Wimbledon tournament and the Rugby World Cup.

Three events have been offered up for delisting, with the Epsom Derby, the Rugby League Challenge Cup final and the Winter Olympics those now vulnerable.

The key factor in recommending an event for listing was that it should have a special national resonance and not simply be of significance to those who follow the sport concerned.

Davies said: "The panel's task was to look beyond the interests of any one sport, and assess the events that really matter to society in the modern age.

"I believe our report is challenging for the sports governing bodies, the broadcasters and the Government. But unashamedly it puts the viewing public first."

The panel believe there should be a single list of protected live events, unlike the current two-tier arrangement which also safeguards free-to-air screening of highlights.

It is felt protected coverage of highlights is now "insufficient and out of step in a multi-channel, digital and online world".

In coming to their conclusions, the panel have quoted research in which 82% of respondents believed they had an entitlement to watch sporting events events on free-to-air television because they had paid a licence fee. It added that 76% of those asked expected to be able to watch major events free.

Pay TV broadcasters BSkyB and ESPN were praised in the report for their quality of coverage and urged to consider broadcasting some events free in the future.

The traditional terrestrial broadcasters of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five are the only outlets currently meeting the 'qualifying' criteria set down by the panel to screen listed events.

To qualify broadcasters must reach 95% of the population at no extra cost on top of the licence fee.

After the digital switchover is completed in 2012 Sky and ESPN will have a 90% reach.

In asking them to "consider again what may be in the best interests of UK viewers, and the circumstances in which they might broadcast a small number of major events free to air", the panel are hoping they may offer some services unencrypted.

It was also pointed out that there was "compelling evidence of a public expectation" that the BBC had a responsibility to prioritise such sporting events, given their licence fee funding.

If the recommendations are adopted, the BBC would certainly be among the favourites to secure rights to Ashes Test matches having had a long history of covering cricket prior to 1999.

A BBC spokesperson said: "The BBC welcomes the recommendations made by the Davies panel on listed events, and the support the report gives to the principle that it is in the public's interest to protect events of national importance to ensure they remain free to air.

"We will be reviewing the findings and recommendations and will respond in full in due course."

Channel 4, the last free-to-air broadcaster to screen live home Test matches before Sky acquired the rights, are not thought to be interested in immediately getting involved in cricket again.

But a spokesperson said: "We would consider bidding for sporting rights as and when they do come available for tender."

peopleNational cycling charity CTC said he 'should have known better'
Life and Style
The fashion retailers have said they will now not place any further orders for the slim mannequin
Arts and Entertainment
Ugne, 32, is a Lithuanian bodybuilder
tvThey include a Lithuanian bodybuilder who believes 'cake is a sin' and the Dalai Lama's personal photographer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food