Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1600 - 1619)


Mr David Morgan and Mr David Collier

  Q1600  Chairman: 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.

  Q1601  Chairman: 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 exactly?

  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 with them?

  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!

  Q1605  Chairman: How far do these archives go back?

  Mr Collier: I have some in the twenties and thirties.

  Q1606  Chairman: So you would take in Len Hutton's 364 runs?

  Mr Collier: They would not belong to us.

  Q1607  Chairman: 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, 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.

  Q1613  Chairman: 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.

  Q1614  Chairman: 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.

  Q1615  Chairman: 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: Yes.

  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.

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