Govt seeks TV consultant to study free-to-air controversy

14 Jun 2010

Communications Minister Eamon Ryan TD said today his department plans to appoint an independent consultant to examine his controversial decision to make key events like rugby matches and Cheltenham available free-to-air on terrestrial TV.

Ryan said he wants to make key sporting events, such as senior and provincial GAA games, European Rugby Cup and Six Nations Rugby and horse-racing events like Cheltenham free-to-air over terrestrial networks. Pay TV broadcasters would have the right to purchase broadcasting rights, but could not do so exclusively.

Under the terms of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and the Broadcasting Act 2009, a public consultation on the listing of certain events to make them available on free television, is ongoing until 4 July.

Ryan says he intends to appoint an independent consultant expert in the areas of broadcasting and sports financing to study his proposal to make key sporting and cultural events free-to-air.

His proposals have sparked outrage, most notably from the Irish Rugby and Football Union (IRFU), which sees the ability to negotiate deals with broadcasters like Sky and Setanta is critical to their financing.

The consultant will provide an objective report to Ryan towards the end of summer 2010.

“I believe there are certain events that have become part of our culture and that they should be available to all Irish viewers on a free-to-air basis,” Ryan said.

“We are currently consulting with public, sporting and other associations on this issue. The appointment of an expert consultant to examine the potential implications of any proposed designation will greatly enhance the consultation process, and ensure that it is as in-depth and detailed as possible.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years