Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400 - 414)

WEDNESDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2005

Mr Paul Vaughan, Mr Allan Munro and Mr David Moffett

  Q400  Lord King of Bridgwater: I am sorry I missed this point. That is how you got here. Originally England went a separate way and now it is back to a single negotiation?

  Mr Vaughan: Yes.

  Q401  Lord Peston: Just to get back then and following on, I think it is fair to say that Rugby Union is the Welsh national game. Would that be an exaggeration?

  Mr Moffett: No.

  Q402  Lord Peston: So would you then say if Wales were in a final that absolutely ought to be a listed event—putting you on the spot because also being a small country you would like the money?

  Mr Moffett: I think it is different horses for courses between ourselves and England, for example, which is a much bigger market and they are able to perhaps split their rights. We would find it difficult to do that and get the same amount of money as if we were selling it to one, and we are not entirely convinced that a little country like ours is going to be of much appeal to a paying broadcaster. We are when we form a mix like the European Cup, for example, I think Wales is quite important in the overall mix of what broadcasters want because it is a national sport. There are only two countries in the world where that is the case—New Zealand and ourselves—so we do form an important aspect of it, but on our own I do not think we would. As I said earlier on, in terms of listed events, I do not think we would be averse to it as long as we could be assured by some mechanism that we were getting the true market price or the true negotiated price, to take your point of view, about what is the market for television rights. I think would be our view.

  Q403  Chairman: Would it be true, Mr Vaughan, to follow up what Lord Peston was asking, that you would prefer a system where frankly the fewer Group A listed events the better?

  Mr Vaughan: Yes.

  Q404  Chairman: Would that also be the view of the others?

  Mr Munro: Probably, yes.

  Q405  Lord Holme of Cheltenham: That is to improve your bargaining power?

  Mr Vaughan: Absolutely right.

  Q406  Lord Peston: The three countries are very different. What is fascinating about having the three of you together is we have a small country where rugby is the national game; Rugby Union is clearly not the English national game but it is fairly successful; and then Scotland, it is not clear to me whether Scotland has a national game, but for you to do your job in promoting rugby and so on, you really do need an income, do you not? Income has to be uppermost in your mind?

  Mr Munro: Absolutely. Going back to our main role, which is that of a governing body and really there to promote the game, we desperately need the income to do that. Fortunately, with the change in Government attitude having won the Olympics and Glasgow bidding for the Commonwealth Games in 2014, sport has considerably gone up the Government's agenda. That is a help to every sport not just rugby and football and so on. Every sport should, I hope, now participate in trying to reduce the obesity that is prevalent in kids. So it is a huge part.

  Q407  Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: If we do get rid of the listed system in this changing world of television, how do you protect coverage of sport on terrestrial channels?

  Mr Vaughan: I think it comes back to why do you want to protect it in the first place. If it is in order to have breadth of coverage in order to show what we perceive to be something that the nation owns, then that is all very worthy. If it is about the development of a particular sport, and if you take athletics and the Olympics for instance, the Olympics is probably the only time that I watch athletics because it is there and it is part of that whole Olympic thing. If it is to encourage kids to take part in it, I think it is more fundamental than that, it needs to go back to the education process and schools, which is where it is all falling apart, and it is not necessarily driven by television or radio. I do enjoy watching the Olympics and I think it should remain a listed event, which is perverse considering what I have just said, but we have to understand what we are trying to do. The world is changing. If it is a listed event, is it just the BBC? There are five terrestrial channels out there and if we are going to go digital where everybody has to have a box, then the world will probably change even more as the TV market fragments more.

  Q408  Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: Right at the beginning of our discussions Mr Moffett mentioned grassroots rugby and the importance he said to the health of the nation of sport. Do you think that the BBC could or should do more in raising awareness of rugby and also encouraging more participation in it at grassroots level?

  Mr Moffett: Yes, they have got a role to play in all sport, not just rugby. It is rugby because we are sitting here talking about rugby and it being our national sport in Wales. There is an awful lot that can be done and you can put it under the area of education or health, if you like. I have long felt that sport is in the wrong department. It should not be in the DCMS; it should be in health or education, particularly it should be in health because you can actually intervene. There is not enough intervention I do not think in the way we look at health. So that is where I think organisations such as the BBC have a huge role to play and they would, I think, be seen to be "doing the right thing" for the BBC to actually do that. We are more than happy and I am sure the other Unions would be as well, to sit down with the BBC and put together a strong programme of not only rugby but perhaps other sports as well coming together and doing something particularly aimed, as Paul said, at primary schools and secondary schools because I think that is an important area, and the BBC could be a huge help in that. In actual fact, by getting our rights they also get access to a lot of the raw material that they would need to make a programme like that work. They get access to our international players. That can help them get their message across or the role models we are now starting to build in Wales. I just think that perhaps not enough is made of the add-ons that they can actually get from their involvement with us which then I think would also add to the whole argument about value for money.

  Q409  Chairman: You make a very interesting part in passing. Sport has made its way round Whitehall with various departments looking after it and, of course, many people say it must have a department of its own. Has it made any difference having a department of its own?

  Mr Moffett: I am not sure if I should stray into that area in this room. I have very strong views about it which might get me into trouble.

  Chairman: Okay, we will not press that one. It probably comes outside our area.

  Q410  Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: Can I just follow one thing up because I was going to ask you, you have not at the moment raised this with the BBC?

  Mr Vaughan: Exposure is terribly important to the growth of the game without a shadow of a doubt and in fact the BBC are just launching a ten-minute series of coaching clinics with Jonny Wilkinson on CBBC, which is great. We have helped them by letting them have free access to certain things that we have got, which is fantastic, but it is not just exposure that contributes to growth; success obviously also helps an awful lot. England are currently the world champions of the 2003 World Cup and we have experienced huge growth since then in terms of numbers playing, the number of referees, and administrators and so on. But the way in which we have done that is a mixture of exposure plus investment in development officers out in the field who go to schools and teach the teachers to coach and get into the primary school area and get into all those things. So we have got a huge growth coming through and we are still sustaining it now two years later even though we are in a bit of a losing streak.

  Q411  Chairman: One other point struck me as we were talking. A number of times we have talked about sponsorship being shown on the BBC. Many of the people who write to me say that the great thing about the BBC is there is no advertising. This is a grey area, is it not, because you obviously do take some account of it when you think of the BBC, it is not just an audience, it is the fact there is sponsorship around the ground?

  Mr Moffett: Yes we do. It is actually very important to us in our case in trying to attract sponsors in a very difficult market, and it is a fact that we do. It does help us run the business of rugby in Wales by doing that.

  Q412  Chairman: And the same in England?

  Mr Vaughan: Absolutely, it is terribly important to be able to do that. It is often quite amusing when you read about product placement, which is the big story in the BBC. In Spooks, I think it was, they removed all this product placement branding, but it is okay to do an interview with an author who is trying to flog a book. What is the difference? I cannot quite see it personally. So long as it is part of the fabric then I do not see anything wrong with it at all.

  Q413  Chairman: It is certainly something you take into account?

  Mr Vaughan: Absolutely. It is not just sponsorship, it is advertising revenue as well from all our points of view.

  Q414  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I have just been thinking about Scotland because Scotland does seem to be rather more on a losing streak at the moment. I wondered to what extent some of the initiatives that were being described as far as the BBC getting more involved on the practical side of things, would this be attractive to you or have you got a problem with Scottish television rather than the BBC? Also the other thing is to what extent you are all three moulded together as well as separate. To what extent do you help one another when you are in problems?

  Mr Munro: I think it is important to state up front that a lot of the problems that Scotland are currently facing are of our own making. Point number one. Point number two, yes, we do have a problem. We have a fantastic deal with the BBC on Six Nations coverage which is fantastic. We do have a problem with BBC Scotland because rugby is just not on the horizon. No sport other than Rangers and Celtic is on the horizon and, yes, it is very important that the three of us, the Six Nations, act together because we are all in it for the same thing, to promote the game in our own countries, and obviously a large part of that is what we have to sell, and obviously the more that we can sell the better that we can all promote the game within our own countries. So it is very important that we have the sort of alliances that we do, yes.

  Chairman: Okay, thank you very much indeed. It has been a very fascinating session for us. I think we have learnt quite a bit as well, which is not always our reaction to witnesses coming. Thank you very very much and perhaps if we have got any other questions we could put them to you. Thank you very much for coming this morning.



 
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