What with the Indian Premier League fast approaching us, to be screened live and in full colour on ITV4 (what number is it on Sky?!), I am minded to mention the debate on free to air cricket, essentially Ashes cricket on terrestrial TV (or not).
It would seem that the ECB have won the debate, they have secured an agreement from the Conservative party that should they win the election (which still looks marginally the most likely outcome), the Ashes will not be a listed event and can therefore remain on subscription channels, i.e. Sky Sports.
Rod Bransgrove, Hampshire Chairman and ever the pioneer, has obviously been doing his bit on the lobbying front as well, this EDM (a parliamentary statement of support, essentially toothless but worthy nonetheless) from Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten sensibly extols the virtues of keeping cricket on Sky. I didn't know he was such a cricket fan...
So who is right? On the face of it, it seems that the ECB and Sky are conspiring to keep cricket from the masses to keep their pockets lined, and there is clearly an element of validity in that argument (the keeping their pockets lined bit, not keeping it from the masses). Keeping the ECB coffers overflowing with Murdoch's money means counties still get their (not insignificant) slice of cash, and as Oaten's EDM makes clear, it means local community cricket has some money coming in that it might ordinarily not. There's also the Chance to Shine initiative to think of too, which I'm pretty sure is funded by Sky money.
In an ideal world, we'd all be able to watch cricket for free. When it was on Channel 4 it was brilliantly produced and in the case of the 2005 Ashes, watched by millions. But before that the coverage was frequently interrupted by the horse racing, and while that probably wouldn't be the case now, the lack of non-Sky bidders for test cricket when the tender went round last time shows that there isn't much appetite in any case.
Sky do a good job with the coverage and they also cover a fair amount of county cricket - I'm a subscriber and I intend to stay one. Of course the more people that watch cricket the better, but I don't think now is the time to legislate to have it shown on terrestrial TV.
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