Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1580 - 1599)


Mr David Morgan and Mr David Collier

  Q1580  Lord Kalms: They have got it live?

  Mr Collier: They have covered live cricket of our international series for many years and the World Cup is one they have bid for and won.

  Q1581  Lord Kalms: They bid for it live and the BBC bid for the highlights?

  Mr Collier: Yes.

  Q1582  Lord Kalms: For once the two fitted together?

  Mr Collier: Very nicely.

  Q1583  Lord Kalms: No problem of scheduling for the BBC?

  Mr Collier: No, because they bid and won the rights.

  Q1584  Lord Kalms: What else did you say about 2007 and the BBC bidding?

  Mr Collier: That is the Cricket World Cup.

  Q1585  Lord Kalms: That is the one which we were just talking about?

  Mr Collier: Yes.

  Q1586  Lord Maxton: You presumably do not sell those rights?

  Mr Collier: No we do not. Those rights belong to the International Cricket Council, they will put them out to tender but clearly they always follow what has happened in the UK, which broadcasters are interested in bidding for rights, and clearly the BBC showed an interest in those rights.

  Q1587  Lord Maxton: When you are selling rights like that do the broadcasters make any demands in terms of when the matches will be? They do obviously with football. I just wondered whether Sky made it a condition that "you must play Test matches on those dates because we have got something else on or we are broadcasting a bigger event or equivalent value event" or whatever

  Mr Collier: No, what we do try and do, as I mentioned, is schedule our Test matches to avoid as many clashes as possible with major events in the United Kingdom. That is not always possible with seven Test matches over the summer period. We do try to avoid Wimbledon Finals weekend, for example. We come under very little pressure from other broadcasters in terms of scheduling but from time to time broadcasters do say they would prefer us not to run into the evening news programmes, for example, and therefore in World Cricket I know that David has had comments from the President of the ICC, the International Cricket Council, on the fact that over rates are a big issue to make sure that we finish playing at a specific time.

  Q1588  Lord Maxton: So you have changed the time of some of them from half past 10 to six rather than 11?

  Mr Collier: Yes, we have, half an hour earlier.

  Mr Morgan: We will revert to 11 o'clock once the Sky deal comes in next year. That is a much more customer-friendly time, 11 till 6.30.

  Q1589  Bishop of Manchester: I would like to widen the discussion to bring in an exploration of your opinion in relation to the BBC Charter Review process. In your letter of 4 November, if I may remind you, you said that the Cricket Board "would like to suggest that as part of the Charter Review the BBC is given an enhanced responsibility, and generates a new opportunity, to support the coverage and development of sport across the country", and in the two final paragraphs of your letter is a summary of things that might include. It is a tantalising paragraph and I wonder if you would like to be more expansive to us this afternoon. What would you really like to see coming out of the Charter Review in terms of the BBC in sport?

  Mr Morgan: This is the education area where we would wish them to expand the use of websites, on-line children's television and so on. We believe this to be particularly important.

  Q1590  Bishop of Manchester: So this would be an educative process rather than anything to do with wider coverage?

  Mr Collier: I think there is a mix between the two areas. We mentioned in our letter a dedicated sports channel. We do believe that offers up far more opportunity and the opportunity of a mix between coverage of events and training programmes, coaching programmes, education programmes, magazine programmes, as David has just mentioned. With the expansion of the internet, the BBC with BBC On-line are working with us very closely on a number of coaching programmes. Radio programmes are producing a number of programmes that have been most helpful to us in terms of educating young children in coaching techniques. That broader agenda is something we would very much welcome.

  Q1591  Bishop of Manchester: What about the proposed move they are making to Manchester? I was delighted about the peak viewing when the Test Match is in Manchester, but from your point of view, if you are thinking in terms of a BBC which might do what you have just been describing, is it going to help or hinder or is it not going to make any difference at all if the department moves from London to Manchester?

  Mr Morgan: We think the move to Manchester would reduce costs and make the BBC more competitive.

  Mr Collier: I think it is a matter for the BBC.

  Q1592  Chairman: Not the way they are doing their sums at the moment!

  Mr Collier: Clearly we would welcome any move that assists in expanding the amount of sports coverage on television.

  Q1593  Bishop of Manchester: In terms of the dedicated channel, which presumably, as we were saying earlier, would be on Freeview from the BBC, how do you then reckon the other broadcasting companies would relate to that? What you would be pushing for would be for the BBC to be the major sports broadcaster in this country—is that what you are saying?

  Mr Collier: No, not necessarily. I think it would just open up opportunities for the BBC to be able to get away from the scheduling issue that we have had. That is the issue that it would cure. It would still mean that the BBC would have to be competitive in the way that they bid for rights with other broadcasters, but what we do see with a dedicated sports channel is the opening up of more active competition and better competition. We believe that would be good for broadcasters and the consumer as well as sport in general.

  Q1594  Bishop of Manchester: And presumably there would be costs, as you are implying, and therefore you would be quite happy about significant increases in the licence fee to cover that because you feel this is what the licence fee payer is wanting?

  Mr Collier: I think the whole issue of the commercial arrangements is for the BBC to determine its own priorities on. One of the things that is true of sport is that the production costs are much lower than the production costs of some other programmes, particularly costume drama, for example. We understand it is less than 10 per cent for the cost per hour. It is just a question of priorities, for broadcasters to determine what priority they put to different events.

  Q1595  Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: We can see the up side that you have from the flow of money into the game and it is splendid that you have been able to distribute so much to grass roots cricket, but the issue on the down side is that a lot of the children who one hopes might be going into the game will be having much less opportunity to watch first-class cricket, to watch Test cricket, because their parents do not afford a channel for which you have to pay. Have you done anything to measure or gauge the impact of that effect on BSkyB?

  Mr Collier: We did a lot of consumer research that showed that the time when schoolchildren, particularly in working families, want to see cricket is in the peak time in the early evening. That is why we believe that the Channel Five highlights package is so important; to get that package on at 7.15 to eight o'clock every night, guaranteed, throughout the summer we believe is exceptionally important. That is when we can bring cricket to young people. It is when mum and dad can sit down with their children and watch the cricket together. We do believe that is a very big plus. If we just create interest in the game of cricket without being able to invest in facilities at grass roots we are making the problem far worse. At the moment we know there is a £50 million shortfall just in basic resources for cricket. That is artificial turf pitches, practice facilities and renovating cricket pavilions. If we had a downturn in income it would enhance the frustration. It is a delicate balance for us. We want to encourage young people by providing facilities. To do that we have to have the income to provide facilities.

  Q1596  Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: I appreciate that you want to have both the coverage and the revenue. Is the answer not to look for a situation in which the same broadcaster cannot have the live rights and the highlights?

  Mr Collier: The same broadcasters do not have the live rights and the highlights package.

  Q1597  Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: There are not free-to-air highlights or continuous coverage?

  Mr Collier: Yes, but there are free-to-air highlights on Channel Five from 7.15 to 8.00 pm.

  Mr Morgan: Which, Chairman, is an extremely important part of the package. It is the first time that cricket has been available, early evening highlights on free-to-air television, in a very long time. That is the time when our research tells us more children and more parents are able to watch television together.

  Q1598  Lord King of Bridgwater: They claim 95 per cent coverage of that.

  Mr Collier: Ninety three per cent, Lord King, I believe is the figure at present.

  Q1599  Lord King of Bridgwater: Rising to 95 per cent?

  Mr Collier: Aiming to rise to 95 per cent, yes.

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