Memorandum by the Lawn Tennis Association
As the governing body for tennis in Great Britain,
the LTA's aims are clear. We are determined to ensure that this
country becomes a great tennis nation again. To do that we need
a vibrant network of accessible, affordable clubs with juniors
and performance at their heart, which is why everything that the
LTA does now is focussed on three key areasperformance,
kids and clubs.
The LTA currently works with the BBC in relation
to its rights holding for two major international events:
Home and away Davis Cup ties
The Hastings Direct International
Championships held in Eastbourne each June.
As joint arrangers of the Championships, Wimbledon,
the LTA also has a relationship with the BBC through its shared
rights ownership of the tournament. Similarly, as joint owners
of the Stella Artois Championships the LTA has a further relationship
with the BBC as the tournament's rights holders.
Finally, the LTA works very closely with many
BBC departments including Sport, News, CBBC and marketing in its
work to raise awareness and drive participation of tennis throughout
1. Should the BBC have a duty to bid for certain
It is the LTA's belief that as a public service
broadcaster, funded by the licence fee the BBC has a very limited
responsibility to bid for sports events in general. In our opinion
any duty should be limited to the summer and winter Olympics and
Paralympics and the Football World Cup. While there are events
that clearly capture the imagination of the British public such
as the Wimbledon Championships and the Grand National, it is our
belief that legally insisting the BBC bid for these events essentially
removes these events ability to operate in a free market. The
LTA acknowledges that the relationship with the BBC as the host
broadcaster of the Wimbledon Championships is excellent and has
been mutually beneficial both to the BBC and the Championships.
In the case of the Olympics, it is our view
that this event is an international celebration of sport. The
Olympic ideal embraces nations and nation's ideals and as a movement
the Olympics transcend sport itself. For the large majority of
Olympic sports they represent the absolute pinnacle of sporting
achievement. For this not to be available via the BBC would be
to undermine the very ideals the Olympic movement is founded on.
Finally, the Olympic Games have the ability to inspire children
throughout the country to take up sport and this should be encouraged
In the case of the football World Cup, it is
simply our view that as the nation's favourite sport and indeed
as our national sport, the tournament finals should be available
for all to watch. This does not include the qualifying rounds.
Other than these examples, we find it hard as
a national governing body to reconcile the idea of the BBC being
legally bound to bid for sporting events. It is our firm belief
that sport and sporting rights should be negotiated and sold on
the open market to ensure a fair price and therefore ensure maximum
investment into our sports is achieved. It is difficult to see
the current listing of events as anything other than "nationalisation
without compensation". We believe that the rights holders
who are also the governing bodies of the sport are in the best
position to determine the distribution of any rights fees. The
current argument about the showing of test cricket on terrestrial
TV evidences the maxim that when we are successful, everyone wants
to watch but when we lose it can be consigned to "pay per
view". Governing Bodies of sport cannot work on this basisthey
have long term business plans that require underwriting from their
sources of income, of which TV revenues play the most significant
TV might inspire children to take up a sport
but it can't keep them there. First class clubs, facilities, coaching
and competition are the key to continued participation and they
require ongoing funding.
The arrival of digital TV for all suggests that
policy makers should review the situation as it will be in 2020,
not now. The ubiquity of the mobile phone is testament to the
impact of technology on everyday life. At the moment there are
350 various TV channels available in the UK, there is an ever
increasing trend to more choice not less.
2. Is the BBC too aggressive in the way it
bids for sports rights?
The LTA can only speak from its own experience
of dealing with and negotiating with the BBC on sports rights.
At no point has the LTA felt the BBC to be too aggressive in the
way it bids. The relationship has been built over many years and
is one of mutual respect.
3. Should there be an independent review of
the way the BBC bids for sports rights?
It is the LTA's view that the BBC currently
has a suitable and appropriate level of governance. To add any
additional layers would be unnecessary and bureaucratic, self-defeating
and be to the detriment of sport as it would interrupt the market
More appropriate would be a consideration of
whether the BBC should, after digital crossover in 2012, establish
a digital sports channel to ensure more sporting coverage, particularly
for sports outside of those currently catered for on the main
BBC1 and 2 platforms. There is real competition within the BBC
itself at present between the various forms of entertainment.
As a public service broadcaster the BBC has a duty to make scheduling
decisions on a far more varied list of criteria than simply ratings.
Can the BBC legitimately claim that sport, particularly minority
ones, should be removed from the schedules in place of old black
and white 1930s Hollywood movies or repeated programming, solely
because the latter gets better ratings?
Under the auspices of public service broadcasting,
it might also be argued that the BBC has a duty to its audience
and it's audience's health; in helping to get them up from the
sofa and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Sport and coverage of sport
clearly could form a huge part of that "call to action".
The LTA would not support an independent review
at this stagethere are many policy decisions required first.