Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 315 - 319)


Mr Paul Vaughan, Mr Allan Munro and Mr David Moffett

  Q315  Chairman: Welcome. Thank you very much for coming. We have been looking at the BBC Charter renewal process. We have already produced one report and we have left to one side a number of issues which we thought deserved further consideration. One of those was sport. We are looking at the BBC's role in relation to sport. That is our remit. We are looking particularly at the agreement which flows out of the Charter between the Secretary of State and the BBC on what it should do, and we are looking at the moment, for example, at the Ofcom Review of Public Service Broadcasting which showed that sport was valued as the second highest area after news in all public service broadcasting. That places the importance of sport. The Green Paper states that the BBC has a role in bringing audiences together across the United Kingdom by broadcasting, for example, sport events, particularly of national importance. It is quite important that I tell you what our role is. We do not want to go all over the field but we are very much relating it to the BBC. Could I first of all ask, so that we fully understand, what it is that the various rugby unions do. Would it be sensible to start with the Rugby Football Union?

  Mr Vaughan: Certainly. What we do probably reflects across Scotland and Wales as well. As a governing body, we govern the game of rugby football union in England and therefore in Scotland and Wales. To an extent, it goes a lot further than that, in terms of the nurturing of the game and the development of it and the growth of it. Equally, we also run the national sides. So it is grassroots to the top-end professional game, with the exception in England that we do not run the professional clubs. They are run slightly separately from our point of view. That is broadly what we do.

  Q316  Chairman: Would Wales or Scotland like to add to that?

  Mr Moffett: Yes. In addition to promoting the community and the professional game, we see as a major role increasing participation at all levels of the game, not only playing but coaching, administering, refereeing. We see ourselves increasingly as helping the Assembly Government achieve one of its main aims, which is to improve the health of people in our society. We believe that rugby in Wales, where it is a national game—and it is not so in Scotland and England—has a vital role to play in that. We are currently working very closely with the Assembly in that regard. We see it a much greater obligation on us in Wales to play that wider role.

  Q317  Chairman: Television and radio often play an important part in encouraging.

  Mr Moffett: Absolutely. The importance of the BBC to Wales cannot be underestimated because we are a small country. We talk about the law of England and Wales. You can never lump England and Wales together in a rugby sense; however, we are often seen as an adjunct to England in terms of the commercial side of it. We do not have industry, like, for example, Scotland, who have banks and distilleries and things like that which become sponsors of the Scottish and Rugby Union. We do not have that in Wales, so we are always struggling to balance our books. It is important for us, in developing this partnership with the BBC. I mean, I may stand corrected by Paul, who has major contracts with Sky, but I tend to think Sky would not see Wales as a particularly attractive proposition; whereas the BBC, especially in Wales, do. I think we work very well together in partnership. Unlike Sky, who are there for a very commercial reason, the BBC has a much wider role to play, as I have just outlined previously and it is about us offering the BBC value for money. We think we can do that by taking that wider role that I was mentioning before. We see the BBC as very critical in reaching that bigger audience. During this period that we are in at the moment, for example, we get our games on the network—when we play New Zealand, when we are playing South Africa—so that gives little Wales a much broader audience which we are able to tap into—so critical for us as a small country and a small rugby union. We have aspirations to be as good as England. We are not there yet by a long chalk—although we did beat them last year!

  Q318  Chairman:Let me ask Mr Munro about Scotland?

  Mr Munro: I would concur with everything that has been said so far, except that in Scotland football is the dominant sport. I am afraid that, as far as the BBC are concerned, it takes the bulk of their coverage—and I would not say football in general, it is Rangers and Celtic that dominate. As a consequence, there is no coverage of anything below international rugby whatsoever, whether it be on radio or television. That for us makes things particularly hard. Like Wales and obviously England, we have a similar role in trying to promote the game. It is nice now that the Government have come onside, as it were, because for many years we were almost fighting against the Government, who did not pay enough attention, in our view, to sport.

  Q319  Chairman:Do you think the BBC could do more in Scotland?

  Mr Munro: Yes.

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