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UK Gov rejects Scottish FTA football call

April 28, 2023

By Colin Mann

In its response to the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report, Public broadcasting in Scotland, the UK Government has rejected the Committee’s call to explore ways to ensure more members of the public in Scotland can watch major sporting events for free.

In its report published March 2023, the Committee argued that public service broadcasters are often ‘priced out’ of being able to show sporting events such as international football, with the subscription services that frequently purchase the broadcast rights having “no obvious commercial incentive” to relinquish exclusivity.

In response, the UK Government said that, given public service broadcasters’ operational and editorial independence, it “does not believe it would be appropriate to be more prescriptive about which specific rights they should seek to acquire and from whom they should seek to acquire them”.

The response also reiterates the UK Government’s existing commitment on the future of Freeview, which a third of Scottish households rely on to watch television, despite the Committee calling for further clarity on the platform’s future beyond 2034.

Meeting a key recommendation of the Committee, the UK Government confirms that a Culture and Creative Industries Inter-Ministerial Group will be set up this year to support engagement between the UK and devolved Governments. The Committee looks forward to seeing more detail on the remit of the Group, which its report suggested should include a focus on skills in the UK screen industry.

“The UK Government has decided to stick to the status quo by refusing to take steps that could allow more Scottish fans to watch major sporting events for free,” commented Scottish Affairs Committee Chair, Pete Wishart MP. “Our Committee made the case that Scottish fans are disadvantaged compared to those in England and Wales where viewers can watch more events – including men’s international football – for free.”

“This response to our report wholly fails to reflect the strength of feeling on this issue from Scottish fans and the members of our Committee. We are therefore expecting to hold a debate in the House of Commons in June, ahead of the next round of men’s UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers, to explore this issue further.”

“However, we welcome the confirmation of plans for the Culture and Creative Industries Inter-Ministerial Group. This forum will help the UK Government, the Scottish Government and the other devolved governments work together on key issues like skills, to ensure the thriving broadcasting sector in Scotland and the rest of the UK continues to go from strength to strength.”

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