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The Broadcasting Act 1996 (as amended) gives the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport the power to draw up a list of sporting events of national interest. 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”. The aim is to make sure that the events are made available to all television viewers.

The current list was compiled in June 1998 and consists of two groups of events:

  • Group A events – full live coverage must be offered. This group includes the FA Cup Final, the Grand National and the Olympic Games;
  • Group B events – these can have live coverage on subscription television provided that secondary coverage is offered to the free-to-air broadcasters. This group includes the Six Nations rugby union tournament, the Ryder Cup, and cricket test matches played in England.

The Secretary of State can, after consultation, add and delete events from the list at any time.

Paralympic Games added to the list

In July 2019, the then Secretary of State, Jeremy Wright, announced a “limited consultation” on adding the Paralympic Games to the listed events regime. On 27 January 2020, the DCMS announced that the Games would be added to Group A.

Further additions to the list?

A consultation on adding the women’s equivalents of men’s events already on the list closed on 11 December 2019. The Government is analysing the responses.

In a November 2019 report, the Lords Select Committee on Communications and Digital recommended that the Secretary of State should consult on “increasing modestly” the number of listed events. This could include the Ashes and the Open Golf. In its February 2020 response, the DCMS said that the current regime struck “an appropriate balance between retaining free-to-air sporting events for the public while allowing rights holders to negotiate agreements in the best interests of their sport”. It therefore had no plans to review the list. 

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