Football: World Cup on terrestrial TV

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The Independent Online
PRISMA SPORTS AND MEDIA, one of the two companies employed by Fifa to distribute the television rights for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, insist the tournament will be available to all armchair supporters.

Fears were raised that satellite and cable companies could force fans to pay to watch the next tournament after Via Digital, the Spanish digital company, secured the rights to show the World Cup in Spain.

But despite the fact that the British terrestrial broadcasters, BBC and ITV, may not secure the rights to show the next World Cup, they could still make the tournament available to all fans via a "gatekeeper" rights owner.

Peter Sprogis, spokesman for Prisma Sports and Media, said: "There is a chance that BBC and ITV will not gain the rights to show the World Cup. The rights could go to anyone whether they be an European Broadcasting Union member or not. But because it is a listed event, we have a mandate to have a certain number of games on major terrestrial television.

"Someone like BSkyB or onDigital could act as a gatekeeper and sell the rights on. But there will be several broadcasters chasing the rights. In theory, we could sell the rights five days before the event starts, so we are in no rush. Whether the competition was listed or not, we would be looking for the greatest audience possible. I think all the games will be shown on terrestrial television."

Fifa added that they still had a major say in which companies were awarded the rights to screen the World Cup. And they would be screening applicants to make sure they reach the pre-requirements needed to show the tournament.

"The basic agreement and the two companies, who will sell the rights on our behalf, is that each contract will be reviewed by Fifa to make sure that is in line with our basic principles," a spokesman said.

"Fifa reviews every single contract and makes sure it complies with the basic requirements which is the maximisation of the audience. The fact remains that Fifa wants to make football matches available to as many people as possible - on free television."

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