BBC claw back lost ground

So, the BBC are going to broadcast highlights of the Ashes this winter – an interesting development as it appears to have come from nowhere. Sky, who were awarded the rights from the ECB almost exactly 12 months ago (earning the English board a reported £200m) – a decision which caused the ECB to hide under the table, with just their greens for comfort in the Anderson shelter. The doodle-bug passed by, though.

Initially I was angry at the ECB – angry at Sky, too. But it’s not Sky’s fault they have the money to beat off the competition; it’s also the apathy, or disinterest of certain other broadcasters, which ended free-to-air cricket. I wonder now if the BBC are starting to regret it.

At the BBC’s Sports Editor’s blog, the director of BBC Sport, Roger Mosey says:

Now, before anyone says it: yes, we’re talking today about highlights and not live cricket on TV. The question of live cricket returning to the BBC is something we’re keeping under review for the future when the contracts next become available.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but “…something we’re keeping under review for the future” is either a typo or suggests the Beeb are almost certainly going to bid for the rights in 2009. When I first read it, I thought Roger said “keeping under wraps” and it still smacks of that.

A criticism, though. With the greatest respect and understanding of the arduous task a TV scheduler must have, the decision to air the highlights a mere couple of hours before the next day’s play is ridiculous. It’s almost not worth having them at all. If I was just a fan and not writing about the game, I’d still sign up to Sky in spite of the BBC’s highlights gesture.

I remain a fan of the Beeb though. Their website is outstanding; they’ve grasped Web 2.0 and are breaking new ground each year. It’s just a shame that they spend more money on makeover shows like What Donkeys Shouldn’t Wear At Christmas rather than what the public really want: live sport.

Anyway, it’s very much a moot point and outdated too. Sky have it, so get over it. They’re ploughing a lot of money into the English game, too.

End of the road (for now) for BSkyB deal

The ECB’s decision to give BSkyB exclusive rights to show all Tests on PPV (pay per view) TV is now, almost certainly, non-overturnable. (I don’t know if that word exists, but it’s a cracker.) The following people participated in today’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee:

Mr David Collier, Chief Executive, England and Wales Cricket Board, Mr Richard Bevan, Chief Executive, Professional Cricketers’ Association; Mr Roger Mosey, Director of Sport, BBC, Mr Mark Sharman, Controller of Sport, ITV, Mr Andy Duncan, Chief Executive, Channel 4, Mr Colin Campbell, Director of Legal and Business Affairs, Five, Mr Vic Wakeling, Managing Director, Sky Sports (at approximately 10.30 a.m.); Lord Smith of Finsbury and Lord MacLaurin (at approximately 11.00 a.m.); Mr David Brook, Mr Anthony Wreford, and Mr Stedford Wallen, Keep Cricket Free Campaign (at approximately 11.30 a.m.); Rt Hon Richard Caborn MP, Minister for Sport, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (at approximately 11.50 a.m.).

There’s nothing yet at Hansard (incidentally, my family descend from Luke Hansard – the House’s original printer), but Cricinfo have a report here. In it, Caborn says:

“If you are asking me ‘Can a deal be done?’, I don’t think it can,” Caborn said. “I am making no bones about it. I am supporting the ECB in what it has done.”

2009 is how long we’ll have to wait for it to return to terrestrial – although that’s only the end-date of Sky’s contract which will go up for review again. John Howard wouldn’t put up with it, would he? (Scott or whoever – fill me in on the state of play as regards cricket on TV in Australia)

Cricket’s foot-shooting ability

Can’t help feeling that today, having witnessed the most brilliant celebration of an English side to win the Ashes, the ECB’s decision to sell the rights to B$kyB has been even more foolish than we first suspected. Cricket’s ability to shoot itself in the foot is legendary; maybe this sport really is the new Football…

And today I heard that Tessa Jowell, bless ‘er cotton socks, has hinted that it might return as one of the country’s “listed” sports. These “listed” sports, the “crown jewels” (which has its own, unfortunate and obvious meaning in cricket…) are to be reviewed, said Ms Jowell. Hurrah! All is not lost; cricket will return to terrestrial TV after all.

Err, no. The “review” won’t be until 2009.