This Library briefing paper looks at the listed events regime for sporting events of national interest.Jump to full report >>
The Broadcasting Act 1996 (as amended) gives the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport the power to designate key sporting events as "listed events". This ensures that the broadcast rights to these events must be offered to the main free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters on “fair and reasonable terms”. Qualifying broadcasters are not obliged to bid for these rights, so it is possible that on some occasions listed events may not be shown by a qualifying broadcaster.
The current list was compiled in June 1998 and consists of two groups of events.
For Group A events, full live coverage must be offered to the free-to-air channels that are received by at least 95% of the UK population i.e. BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5. This group includes the FA Cup Final, the Grand National and the Olympic Games.
Group B events may have live coverage on subscription television provided that secondary coverage is offered to free-to-air broadcasters. This group includes the Six Nations rugby union tournament, the Ryder Cup, and cricket test matches played in England.
Section 97 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 gives the Secretary of State the power to amend the 95% qualifying condition. This is designed to "future-proof" the listed events regime as the way people watch TV changes with new technologies.
The future of the list
In its December 2015 sport strategy, the Government said that the national governing bodies of sports and other rights holders should be left to “strike the right balance between reaching a wide audience and using their rights to generate as much revenue as possible”.
In a Commons debate of 11 July 2018, the Government said that it did not plan to reopen the list of events and that the system was "delivering the best outcomes for the viewing public".
Commons Briefing papers SN00802
Author: John Woodhouse