Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1811 - 1819)


Mr Brian Barwick and Mr Simon Johnson

  Q1811  Chairman: Welcome to you both. Thank you very much for coming. It seems to me, reading your biographies, that you have a combination of experiences because both of you come from the world of television. Mr Barwick, you were Controller of Sport for ITV for seven years and you also ran Match of the Day on the BBC for a long period before that.

  Mr Barwick: I did indeed, yes.

  Q1812  Chairman: Simon Johnson, you were ITV's programme commissioning and acquisitions business manager, very much including sport?

  Mr Johnson: That is correct.

  Q1813  Chairman: You therefore speak with authority. We are grateful for you very clear letter. I will not go through all the points that you include in that, but, just so that we can get everything clear, you say that the FA Cup is one of your main commercial assets, to use your phrase, that it is now getting to an interesting stage. As a Midlands member, I am wearing the Tamworth Nuneaton and indeed Burton colours in a sense at the moment; we will see what happens. You set out very clearly the audience figures for the BBC when they are televising the FA Cup. How does that compare with Sky? What kind of audience figures do Sky have?

  Mr Johnson: My Lord Chairman, we are at a slight disadvantage in that we have been unable to supply you with the viewing figures for BSkyB. They follow some time behind, and so the information we supplied to you was up-to-date information for the BBC.

  Mr Barwick: I could give you a general comparison, which is probably in the region of 1:5.

  Q1814  Chairman: So the BBC has five times more audience than Sky?

  Mr Barwick: Yes, and that is approximate.

  Q1815  Chairman: Do you take that sort of thing into account when you are thinking about your responsibilities to football generally?

  Mr Barwick: Yes, I think so. I have to say that the last time the Football Association sold its rights, I was trying to buy them. The next time they sell them, I will be trying to sell them. It will be quite an interesting change of position. I think the Football Association has a responsibility to the game, which means that it should, as one of its core ambitions, try to maximise revenue, but equally try to make sure it encourages the wider participation of the game and also the ability for people to see the game. We have to balance that duality really.

  Q1816  Chairman: Would it worry you that so comparatively few people watch BSkyB?

  Mr Barwick: No, because I think broadcasting is a changing landscape. Some of the bigger and more important games on BSkyB now are watched by significant numbers. Earlier this season I might have been right to suggest to you that when Manchester United played Chelsea on a Sunday afternoon in the Premier League, 3.6 million watched. These are becoming significant numbers.

  Q1817  Chairman: Even so, they are a long way behind the BBC?

  Mr Barwick: That is absolutely true.

  Q1818  Chairman: Therefore, you are in a very good position, given your different jobs, for this next question. How much did the BBC pay to the FA for the rights?

  Mr Johnson: I do not think we have put that information into the public domain. The deal was done a couple of years ago. I was checking that this morning. It is not in the public domain. Our present deal that I told you about in the letter is a four-year agreement between ourselves and jointly the BBC and BSkyB. There is a total figure for that. That is not a public figure. Also, we do not divulge how the division for payments is made between the BBC and Sky. If it would be helpful to you, I can give you an indication of the FA's overall income, but I think you are specifically trying to get the value of the television rights, which unfortunately, because this is a public session, I cannot help with any further.

  Q1819  Chairman: As a matter of policy, you just do not get that information?

  Mr Johnson: We have not published it in this current deal. Whether that remains a policy for the future is something we still need to resolve, but in this current deal, we have not publicised the amount of television revenues that we receive.

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