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Changes to ‘crown jewel’ sporting events as part of the UK broadcasting review: an updated analysis of the UK’s listed events regime

Following the growing popularity and success of the Women’s Super League and the great form of the England women’s team, there is a real sense of anticipation and excitement as the Championship final approaches. UEFA Women’s Europe, which will be launched this Wednesday by the Lionesses of England. against Austria.

At the end of April, the UK government announced that the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the UEFA European Women’s Championship were to be protected by the UK regime from events listed as “crown jewel” events – attracting the same status in the UK Scheduled Events Regime as men’s events. Football World Cup and UEFA European Championships.

These ‘crown jewel’ events are considered events of national significance and in order to promote as wide an audience as possible, access to these events on free-to-air (FTA) television channels or services has been protected. by UK law listed event scheme.

In the light of these changes and also of the dissemination white paper Recently published by the UK Government in the review of public service broadcasting more generally, this article examines the background, recent changes and potential developments in the UK regime of listed events.

Background to the UK Listed Events Regime

The Broadcasting Act 1996 (there “Law“) provides the legislative basis for the UK regime of listed events.

The law empowers the Secretary of State to designate specific events from time to time as “scheduled events.” DCMS indicated that such events shouldhave a special nationality resonance” and contain an element that “is used to unite the nation, a common point on the national calendar, which is not only of interest to those who follow the sport in question“.

The events listed are divided into 2 groups:

  • Group A events – essentially, where it is intended (as below) that live coverage will be offered on an eligible FTA channel or service; and
  • Group B events – essentially, for which live coverage may be shown on pay TV, but it is expected (as below) that highlight or delayed coverage will be offered on an eligible FTA channel or service.

Recent Changes to Listed Events and Updated List

As mentioned above, the government’s confirmation that the FIFA Women’s World Cup and UEFA European Women’s Championships should be protected by the UK regime from events listed as “crown jewel” events is a welcome addition.

National interest in women’s football has certainly increased in recent years. A record 28.1 million viewers watched BBC coverage of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, more than double the previous tournament. The Lionesses’ semi-final match against the United States was the most watched, with a peak audience of 11.7 million and a peak share of 50.8%.

As such, it would seem few could argue that these international women’s football tournaments failed to attract”particular national resonance”. Also significantly, their addition, along with that of the Paralympic Games[1]served to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of the list of “Crown Jewels” events.

The current list of Group A and Group B protected events (including recent additions) is shown below.

The Olympic Games
The Paralympic Games (added in January 2020)
FIFA World Cup Final Tournament
FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals Tournament (added April 2022)
European Football Championship Finals Tournament
European Women’s Football Championship Finals Tournament (added April 2022)
The FA Cup final
The Scottish FA Cup Final (in Scotland)
The Grand National
The derby
The Wimbledon tennis final
The Rugby World Cup Final
The Rugby League Challenge Cup final
Cricket Test Matches Played in England
Non-finals play in the Wimbledon tournament
All other matches in the Rugby World Cup Final tournament
Six Nations Rugby Tournament matches involving home countries
The Commonwealth Games
The athletics world championship
The Cricket World Cup – the final, semi-finals and matches involving local nations’ teams
The Ryder Cup
The Open Golf Championship

Which FTA services are eligible?

Part IV of the Act distinguishes between two categories of television services, depending on whether or not they meet the “eligibility requirements“:

  • Services that meet the eligibility requirements to be FTA and received by at least 95% of the UK population (the “First category); and
  • All other services that do not meet the eligibility requirements (including pay-TV broadcasters / paid subscription services) (the Second category).

The current list first-class free-to-air television services includes:

  • BBC one, two, three and four
  • CBBC and CBeebies
  • BBC News and BBC Parliament
  • Channel 3 Network (ITV, STV, UTV)
  • ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4
  • Channel 4, Movie 4 and Plus 4
  • Channel 5

The law currently prohibits Category 1 or Category 2 television services from broadcasting a listed event live unless a television service in the other category, which broadcasts coverage in substantially the same area, has also acquired the relevant cover rights (taking into account whether the relevant event is a Group A or Group B event), unless Ofcom gives its consent.

Ofcom’s conditions for giving consent depend on how the relevant listed event is classified:

  • For Group A events, Ofcom will give consent for exclusive live coverage if it is “satisfied that broadcasters have had a real opportunity to acquire the rights on fair and reasonable terms“; and
  • For Group B events, Ofcom will give consent for exclusive live coverage if “adequate arrangements have been made for secondary coverage (i.e. highlights or delayed coverage)” by a broadcaster in the other category.

As these exclusive coverage authorization criteria show, the Listed Events regime does not necessarily guarantee that all Listed Events will be shown on free-to-air channels. Rather, it seeks to ensure a fair process in the acquisition of the relevant rights. Ofcom posts approved applications for exclusive coverage on its website.

What additional changes are on the horizon to further protect listed events in the digital age?

In its recently published white paper, the UK government recognizes that further reforms are needed to further modernize the listed events framework, particularly in light of rapidly changing media delivery technology and viewer consumption habits. .

The question of the extent of digital rights protection afforded to ‘crown jewel’ events became a matter of public debate during the recent Tokyo Olympics in light of the latest broadcast rights agreement between the IOC and Discovery. This agreement, which is to last until the Paris 2024 Games, has allowed the BBC to make two separate live streams of the Tokyo 2020 Games available at any one time, but represents a marked reduction in the volume of streaming content accessible via the red button. or iPlayer for previous Olympics. For example, at Rio 2016 the BBC provided 4,500 hours of live action compared to just 350 hours at Tokyo 2020.

The recent white paper published by the UK government highlights some shortcomings in the protection offered by the current regime of listed events in relation to digital rights. He goes on to cite the hypothetical example of a ‘crown jewel’ Group A event, such as the Olympic 100m final, broadcast live on a premier television service, such as the BBC, in the middle of the night for the UK. viewers, and all on-demand/catch-up digital rights then being sold to a pay-TV broadcaster without breaching the listed events regime.


Given the comments made in the Broadcasting White Paper, it would appear that the UK Government is satisfied (for the time being at least) that the current list of events strikes the right balance between maintaining free access to sporting events for the public and give rights holders the freedom to structure their media rights arrangements as they see fit.

However, in light of the recognition of the transformational changes in digital media consumption trends and distribution technologies, it seems that new developments may well be underway as to how the regime protects the exploitation of digital rights. events listed by FTA-eligible services.

Further, given some specific references in the white paper, as well as its overriding review theme underlying “creating a new golden age of British television and helping the country’s public service broadcasters to thrivethe prospect of the regime of listed events changing to become a specific benefit for public service broadcasters seems a realistic possibility in the future.

Rightsholders and broadcasters, as well as the UK public, will all have an interest in seeing how these issues develop.