Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1560 - 1579)


Mr David Morgan and Mr David Collier

  Q1560  Chairman: And throughout this process you kept in contact with the Commission?

  Mr Collier: There was legal advice taken all the way through the process.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. Baroness Howe?

  Q1561  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I really do find it extremely difficult to understand exactly what happened. I think we all do; perhaps you do. I wondered whether subsequently anything had come to your notice which might have helped explain why there was this sudden lack of bidding?

  Mr Collier: I think the DCMS Select Committee was most helpful and most constructive. It outlined the fact that certainly for Channel Four there were a number of serious financial constraints in terms of the bidding process. I think Channel Four openly stated a significant amount of money that they had lost on cricket from the last rights package. Certainly in terms of the BBC the scheduling issue was a significant issue. That came out very early on, that the scheduling issue was always going to be their major constraint. That, if you like, was two significant broadcasters and it gave them significant problems with bidding competitively for several of the packages. Cricket has obtained no more money from this deal than it is currently obtaining, so it is not additional or incremental revenue for cricket.

  Lord King of Bridgwater: Just a couple of quick points. First of all, I ought to declare that Giles Clarke is my nephew and he was one of the two negotiators on this. I have declared that interest in the Committee. I am also the occasional captain of the House of Lords' cricket team and a participant in the field.

  Chairman: Is that televised?

  Q1562  Lord King of Bridgwater: And I am not a Sky subscriber, and I have already made my views known to Giles Clarke. First of all, the 27 packages that have been talked about, are those confidential or have they been made available? Could we see them?

  Mr Collier: I see no reason at all why we should not release those and I would be very happy to send those on to you, Chairman.

  Q1563  Lord King of Bridgwater: Can I ask you if exclusivity was ever one of the original packages? I got the impression from the Commons evidence that it became evident to Sky during the bidding process that they might be able to get exclusivity as though it had not been one of the original packages; is that right?

  Mr Collier: There was no total exclusivity in the original packages. One of the packages was for all seven Test matches so that was one area that people could bid for, but then the one day internationals, the ODIs as we call them, were separated from that, as was domestic cricket, as was the Twenty20 competition, so they were all separate packages and then there were subsets of those packages.

  Q1564  Lord Kalms: One question that keeps coming up is you are very sympathetic to the BBC because of what you are saying are scheduling problems. When you negotiate, one of the first things you do is not worry about the other side, you just worry about the product you are selling. All of sudden scheduling is a big problem. Scheduling is always a problem to the BBC. Why are you so sympathetic to it because when they want to introduce a sports programme they find time. They always have time for Royal Ascot, they fill as much time as they want with snooker but all of a sudden they are saying, "Cricket? No, scheduling problems," and you roll over and say, "Yes, we understand your problem." They did not make one single effort to take cricket into their programmes. Is that a correct analysis?

  Mr Collier: Where we are sympathetic is to the fact that the BBC had contractual commitments to other sports. In the same way we as the ECB when we negotiate rights we do like to see within our agreement the maximum amount of coverage per day because the last thing we want is for cricket to be switched on and off every half an hour during the day of a Test match. That clearly is something our viewers do not enjoy. Once the BBC have entered into a contractual commitment, let's say, with Wimbledon or with the FA Cup Final or with Royal Ascot, they have a commitment to a certain amount of coverage on those days. That clearly creates a scheduling issue and we have to recognise that. That is why it is important that we prepare for the next round of bids very early, we discuss with all the broadcasters (not just the BBC) what they might or might not be interested in, so we are trying to mix and match their schedules and opportunities because we believe that is in the best interests of ECB as well to create the most competitive market place.

  Q1565  Chairman: The next round of bids is not until 2009.

  Mr Collier: Correct, but if you think that a lot of these contracts will be entered into in probably 2007, so some of the contracts that broadcasters have with other sports or other events expire in 2006 or 2007 and that is where we need to be.

  Q1566  Chairman: Mr Morgan, I am sorry I interrupted you.

  Mr Morgan: Just going back to Lord Kalms' question, it was not our intention to be sympathetic, we simply recognised that they did have a scheduling problem and our assumption was that they had believed that Channel Four and Sky would be both bidding again and I think they took a business decision (they being the BBC) to procure other sports for the period of this deal. Now, next time round they have made it very clear to us that they will be extremely interested in coming to the table at the bid.

  Q1567  Chairman: You obviously have this unusual if not unique problem that the weather might get in the way and you have a six-hour slot that has not been filled with anything. It is all very well playing last year's Test matches but they begin to pall after a bit.

  Mr Morgan: Indeed.

  Mr Collier: There are nearly 300 hours in an English summer of international cricket. That is quite a lot of cricket.

  Q1568  Lord Peston: It has just dawned on me, and I will get you to clarify following what the Lord Chairman has said, that you sell the rights to show the cricket but there is no obligation to show it, is there? Supposing Sky were to decide that one of the touring sides was so tedious and the audience was so low that they really could not fill Sky Sports One or Two (I think it was One yesterday, I cannot remember, whatever I was watching) and they might say "We have bought it but we are better off now not exercising the right." Are they obliged once they have bought the package to show it no matter how awful it is?

  Mr Collier: Certainly I can answer that in terms of BSkyB; they guarantee continuous coverage of the Test match. Likewise, going forward with the Channel 5 highlights we were very anxious that they were on at peak viewing time—7.15 to 8 o'clock—and that that was a guaranteed slot at a guaranteed time. Wherever possible we would seek to obtain the maximum amount of coverage within the contract. Clearly with Channel Four there were times when Channel Four had to switch to a racing programme during the last contract so we were not guaranteed totally extensive coverage of all the Test matches.

  Q1569  Lord Peston: Under the current deal you are absolutely guaranteed the coverage?

  Mr Morgan: Chairman, they have bid against a schedule of matches against a four-year period so they know which tourists are coming essentially.

  Q1570  Lord Peston: Therefore they do take some risks, do they not, because interest in cricket might conceivably have a fleeting character that might well go as well as stay. Yesterday's match was fascinating how England managed to guarantee to lose it, then looked as if they were going to win it, and then they decided "we have really made up our mind to lose it". It was fascinating yesterday; it is not always quite as fascinating as that, is it?

  Mr Collier: I certainly think there are some unique challenges but also some great rewards. We think cricket provides exceptionally good value for the amount of money paid for those rights comparative to other sports.

  Q1571  Lord King of Bridgwater: Reference has already been made by the Chairman to the paper you produced. At this point you say your relations with the BBC have been good in the past, you have a long and proud history, and that you welcome the statement they have made looking forward. I think Michael Grade is on the record (he was not the Chairman then like you were not the Chief Executive then either) as saying that they were sorry they did not do more then.

  Mr Collier: Yes.

  Q1572  Lord King of Bridgwater: You were asked in the Commons' Select Committee whether the game was all over in this respect or whether the Irish analogy where Sky were called into a meeting with the Taoiseach and persuaded to allow some more terrestrial coverage of the Irish World Cup football. You gave an ambivalent answer, if I may say so, on that, I thought. Is there a possibility of further discussions in view of the public reaction to the existence of the Sky exclusivity?

  Mr Collier: In the DCMS Select Committee I think it was most helpful in his summation at the end that the Minister for Sport made that commitment that if parties were interested he would seek to bring them together. Clearly it would be up to the broadcasters themselves if the broadcasters were interested—and there have been some statements since then that some broadcasters have stated that their position has not changed.

  Q1573  Lord King of Bridgwater: They have said their position has not changed?

  Mr Collier: That is right. There was some comment resulting from that select committee that the position had not changed.

  Q1574  Lord King of Bridgwater: If you were invited by Mr Caborn would you be able to go into it in a constructive frame of mind?

  Mr Collier: The ECB would be willing to attend any meeting with the Minister. Certainly the Minister has been most helpful in seeking all options. That said, we do have some contractual commitments, but clearly again I think BSkyB and Vic Wakeling made a similar commitment in his Commons testimony to say that he would be willing to attend such a meeting as well.

  Q1575  Chairman: It would be very unusual, would it not, for BSkyB who have entered into an exclusive contract with you, they might have made a commitment to go to a meeting but I would not put too much money on them coming out with a change of policy, or would you?

  Mr Collier: I think that is something that broadcasters themselves would have to answer. It is very difficult for me to speculate on what BSkyB would say. They do have a contract with ECB.

  Q1576  Chairman: What about you? You are not going to change your policy presumably very willingly?

  Mr Collier: We always look for the best deal for the sport of cricket and I think what we have done is achieved the best deal for the sport of cricket. We do believe we have safeguarded the income stream for the game. We do believe that it was the right package from the options that we were given at the time. Clearly if new options come on to the table that were of similar values then we would always look at other options, but I think it is very unlikely.

  Q1577  Lord King of Bridgwater: Mr Caborn has not pressed the issue.

  Mr Collier: I certainly think the Minister has followed through but there has not been a meeting called at this time.

  Q1578  Lord Kalms: You mentioned before that the BBC are bidding for the rights for the West Indies. They are going to bid?

  Mr Collier: No, they have bid and they have won the rights for the Cricket World Cup for the highlights in 2007.

  Q1579  Lord Kalms: Did Sky bid for that?

  Mr Collier: Sky will be televising the World Cup live.

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