Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1620 - 1639)

TUESDAY 20 DECEMBER 2005

Mr David Morgan and Mr David Collier

  Q1620  Lord Kalms: I just want to take up a note in your letter where you say, "ECB further welcomes the statement that the BBC will be seeking to acquire rights at a fair market value". They have indicated to you that that is their attitude but a fair market value is miles outside their resources, is it not, so why are you encouraged by a statement which is rather hard for them to realise?

  Mr Morgan: We would question the belief that it is way outside their resources. We believe that cricket is good value for money in terms of televising.

  Q1621  Lord Kalms: Yes, but anybody who has a product must think that they should not be in the selling business. In the real world the price that a product has gone for is normally, within the terms of the BBC, well outside their possibility, ignoring the scheduling, just talking about pounds.

  Mr Collier: I do not think that is the case. Certainly, in terms of other programming it would be a lot less expensive than a number of other programmes.

  Q1622  Lord Kalms: For instance?

  Mr Collier: Things like a highlights package would not have been anywhere near outside the parameters of a commercial deal for the BBC. I am sure that they will be looking at that very hard in the future.

  Q1623  Lord Kalms: Do you think it is realistic for them to pay a fair market value when they have hovering over them BSkyB which can always outbid them if they choose to?

  Mr Collier: I think it is a question of priorities for the BBC. I do not believe that it is outwith the remit of the BBC to be able to afford the rights for cricket comparative to other programmes and other rights that have been acquired.

  Q1624  Chairman: It may not be the case but live cricket is getting outside their budget?

  Mr Collier: Yes.

  Q1625  Chairman: Do you think that is right?

  Mr Collier: As I say, Chairman, it is still within the budget, provided that it is seen as a number one priority. I do not think that the sum of £55 million a year in terms of what is paid for the totality of cricket comparative to the total BBC budget is exceptional.

  Q1626  Lord Kalms: Do you know how much the BBC budget is for sports rights?

  Mr Collier: It is a multiple of five or six times that.

  Q1627  Chairman: But highlights they could easily afford?

  Mr Collier: Easily.

  Q1628  Chairman: Would you regard that as the ideal solution?

  Mr Collier: I think the ideal solution is that the BBC bid for all aspects of cricket, not just highlights.

  Mr Morgan: I think this takes us back to why there is a large number of packages. The large number of packages existed in order to give free-to-air broadcasters the opportunity to bid for what they could afford.

  Chairman: I see that. We have certainly distinguished three or four. I am fascinated to see this list and how you get up to 27, but doubtless we can see that when you put that in.

  Q1629  Lord King of Bridgwater: You mentioned you were not here when this process was going on. Neither was Mr Mosey, who came and appeared before us, although Mr Coles was, who was the financial man. When is the next bidding round going to start because it seems to me that there are quite a lot of lessons to be learned on both sides. Are you having discussions with them about the next bidding round?

  Mr Collier: We are certainly having discussions with all broadcasters, not just the BBC. I would see the next bidding round commencing in earnest around 2007. There has to be at least a two-year lead period because otherwise other contracts for rights do get added into it and we are back to this schedule issue that we talked about earlier. Just to clarify, I was a director of the board last year, so obviously I did have knowledge of what was going on, as I think I said to the DCMS committee.

  Q1630  Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: Who determines what is in the 27 packages?

  Mr Collier: That was a matter for discussion. This is why we had all these different meetings with different broadcasters, to try to determine what would be the best sub-division packages to be able to allow people to choose and to bid. That was why, even when we created the 27 packages, we determined that people should be able to bid for all or part of those packages themselves. In fact, some mathematician somewhere worked out how many different combinations (and it was many million) that people could bid for if they so wished.

  Q1631  Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: Did it therefore follow that there was no exclusivity in any of the 27 packages since any combination was possible?

  Mr Collier: That is right. If you look at the list of 27 packages, which we will send to you, there was no total exclusivity. One of the packages would have said, "Here is a package for the seven Test matches" that we hold, but it would not then have included the One Day Internationals and they could have bid for them separately.

  Q1632  Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: I may be slightly confused but what I meant by "exclusivity" there was that it was not that you could not have different broadcasters being successful bidders for different packages but rather that when a broadcaster was successful in acquiring a package did that broadcaster acquire the exclusive right to the components of that package? These were non-overlapping packages?

  Mr Collier: Yes, that is right. It was for that specific package.

  Q1633  Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve: So for each of the packages it was exclusive?

  Mr Collier: That is right.

  Q1634  Lord King of Bridgwater: Did you say that you actually consulted the broadcasters in putting together the packages?

  Mr Collier: Yes.

  Q1635  Lord King of Bridgwater: So the BBC were able to put forward their views as to what a suitable package would be for which they then did not bid?

  Mr Collier: I think the evidence you have already received stated that there were a number of meetings with the BBC. I think a figure of 15 was quoted of meetings that were held. Yes, there were meetings to discuss how the invitation to tender could be put forward, so that people could hopefully bid.

  Q1636  Lord Maxton: Can I ask in all of this that we remember that the BBC is the British Broadcasting Corporation, not the English Broadcasting Corporation, and certainly some of us were looking quite horrified at the idea of the BBC giving up the Open Golf to show Test cricket. Can I come back to your website? You say you show highlights of games on the website.

  Mr Collier: Yes.

  Q1637  Lord Maxton: I had a quick trip there this morning and I could find highlights from last summer's games but I could not find the Pakistan games.

  Mr Collier: That is right.

  Q1638  Lord Maxton: I could find those on Sky but I would have to pay on the Sky website if I were prepared to pay eight or nine pounds a month for the right to be a member of the Sky Sports channel.

  Mr Collier: There is a technical issue with overseas matches of getting the feed back to us. In Pakistan in the last few days a company called Ten Sports was doing some of the actual filming of those matches, so it is something that we are looking to expand in the future, but at the moment you are absolutely correct: it is our home matches that we put through our website.

  Q1639  Lord Maxton: Do you film yourself or does Sky give you the film?

  Mr Collier: No. We take the feed off whoever is the host broadcaster. It is not live for the whole match. It is highlight packages of the match.


 
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