Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1600
TUESDAY 20 DECEMBER 2005
Mr David Morgan and Mr David Collier
Just to sum up that point which Lady O'Neill has made, which is
very important, you would regard live on pay TV and highlights
on a free broadcaster as being an ideal package?
Mr Collier: We believe it is a very good package.
Children are at school when we play Test cricket in the early
part of the season. Therefore, to be able to come home from school
and watch cricket in the evening and see that on free-to-air television
from 7.15 to eight o'clock, particularly with father sitting down
with them and walking through the game of cricket, is very important.
It enables you, does it not, to meet this point about supporting
the coverage and the development of sport across the country which
an exclusive package with, say, a normal pay channel does not
Mr Collier: It does not. That is why the mix
was so important, as David Morgan said.
Q1602 Lord Maxton:
The BBC, despite the fact that they have not been covering it
for the last five years, still have been over the years a major
broadcaster of cricket on television and we will come to radio
in a moment. On the television side, who owns the archive that
they must have, the rights to that? Do you have it or is it the
BBC who have it and, if they have it and you wish to use some
of it for coaching purposes, what sort of operation do you have
Mr Collier: There is a mix. It depends on the
timing of the different agreements. With the current contracts
the ECB has rights to archive material. Going back a number of
years the ECB does not have those rights. We do work in close
co-operation with the broadcasters when we need footage to obtain
that footage from those broadcasters and then we normally enter
into some form of commercial arrangement to acquire those rights.
Q1603 Lord Maxton:
As a source of income DVDs of great games of the past, like the
Botham game or something like that, would be a source of income
to you, would they not, if you had the rights to them?
Mr Collier: It is very true that that is something
that we identified in the last broadcasting package. That is why
we released the Ashes DVD from the Edgbaston Test Match, which
I think was dubbed the greatest Test, and then from the whole
Ashes Test series which has become the largest selling sports
DVD of all time, so it was particularly important.
Q1604 Lord Maxton:
It is not on my Christmas list.
Mr Collier: It should be!
How far do these archives go back?
Mr Collier: I have some in the twenties and
So you would take in Len Hutton's 364 runs?
Mr Collier: They would not belong to us.
Who would they belong to?
Mr Collier: There is a whole variety, Chairman,
of different broadcasters, not only the BBC. I think Pathé
News has some going back a number of years.
Chairman: It is a fascinating little
byway we are going down but I will bring us back. Lady Howe?
Q1608 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
We are now turning to radio, and again, to quote what you say
in your written evidence, "The BBC's radio coverage of cricket
is rightly famous the world over, with Test Match Special recognised
for its dedicated, thoughtful and entertaining broadcasting of
cricket". Obviously, things have changed over the years but
I certainly am one of those who, when television first started
with the Test Match, turned down the sound and kept the sound
of the radio going. That was the way I preferred to watch cricket.
Thinking about the future of the radio side, do you think the
future of the BBC lies primarily in providing radio and on-line
coverage of international Test cricket only?
Mr Morgan: I think Test Match Special is a top-class
product. Like you, I am an ardent listener and I believe that
they do a first-class job and I believe that it is quite remarkable
that in terms of cricket Test Match Special has more listeners
than free-to-air television has viewers. I do not think that happens
in other sports and maybe it is because other sports are of 90
minutes' duration as opposed to cricket which is 30-plus hours'
duration. I am concerned that the BBC should continue to invest
in Test Match Special and I have no reason to believe that they
are not going to continue to invest therein. Your question as
to whether that is where the BBC should concentrate rather than
on television, I think they need to concentrate on producing the
ability to televise international cricket again, and I am delighted,
as is David Collier, that they have successfully bid for the highlights
of the ICC Cricket World Cup from the West Indies in 2007. Radio
is very important but not to the exclusion of their ability to
televise international cricket.
Q1609 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
I gather also that you stream the audio coverage worldwide by
agreement. Do you get extra payment for that? How does it work?
Mr Collier: It is part of the rights packages.
The rights packages have the streaming element. The ECB also runs
its own website, which is www.ecb.co.uk, and we put some audio
streaming on there as well.
Q1610 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Do you get extra money for that?
Mr Collier: No, because that is our own site.
It just gives us a new audience. We are trying to reach the broadest
possible audience. We see things like mobile rights and internet
rights as well as broadcasting in its traditional sense as being
ways in which we can reach the broadest possible number of people.
Q1611 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
But again, thinking of the pretty solid coverage on radio that
the BBC give, are those rights sellable on, as it were? Can the
BBC pass them on and you pass them on and bring in extra revenue?
Who owns them?
Mr Collier: The BBC would bid for the rights
to produce the audio broadcast for that match but once they have
won those rights it is up to them how they utilise them.
Q1612 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
So they could charge for passing them on?
Mr Collier: I think it would be unusual for
them to then broaden that out into competitive broadcasting. I
am not aware of that happening in the past.
You made a very interesting point about the audience on the radio.
How big is that audience?
Mr Morgan: I do not have that number in my head
but I do know for certain that, when we talk about the Channel
4 average audience being of the order of two million or just under
two million, radio is far in excess of that.
Is it possible to find out?
Mr Morgan: Indeed. When TMS is broadcasting
home Test matches it goes out on the internet as well. The worldwide
interest is quite remarkable.
As you say, it is a slightly unusual position, is it not?
Mr Morgan: Very unusual and it is an area where
the BBC do an incredibly good job. It is a top-class programme.
Q1616 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
One other point: what happens after 2009?
Mr Collier: In terms of the radio rights specifically?
Q1617 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Mr Collier: They will be part of a new tender
process, so again there would be a new tender going forward after
2009 and I am sure there will be a number of companies bidding
for that. Test Match Special has become an institution in this
country and is very special. It is a worldwide quality product
and I would be very disappointed if that did not continue.
Q1618 Lord Kalms:
One of the purposes of this committee is to evaluate the BBC,
not the ECB, and it would be helpful if you could give us some
comments on your reaction to the way the BBC negotiates with them.
I know there is a tendency not to be critical of the BBC because
you do not normally bite the hand that might one day feed you,
but nevertheless it might be helpful if you could evaluate for
us their whole approach to sports rights for their bidding processes.
Do you think they ought to be bound to bid for certain processes?
What is your evaluation, not as a principal but as an observer?
Mr Collier: Our observation would be that they
should not be bound to bid but that we would wish to encourage
them to bid because we do believe that cricket delivers very good
value for money. It should be a priority. If it is a priority
for the BBC then we will have cricket on BBC television. It is
a matter for the BBC's own judgment as to what audience they can
achieve against what the costs would be of that broadcast. I would
like to see cricket being a much higher priority. That is the
comment that we would reiterate, as we have done to the BBC in
the last few months and years.
Q1619 Lord Kalms:
Is the bidding a quality process? Do you have a sense that they
are seriously involved in the subject or do you feel sometimes
that it is only a notional interest?
Mr Collier: I came into this post in January
this year and I have had a number of meetings with Roger Mosey
as well as with Mike Lewis on the radio side, and I sense that
there is a significant renewal of interest in the game of cricket.
I think that is evidenced by the 2007 World Cup. I think it has
been evidenced by the amount of coverage there was on Radio 5
Live of the Ashes series at the end of the summer. I think there
has been a number of new programmes that have entered into the
BBC programming schedule that have been very helpful to cricket,
so I do sense that there is a renewed appetite for and interest
in the game of cricket.