Tuesday 19 November 2019

Moves to make Six Nations free to air on Irish television

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell with the Six Nations Trophy (left), as Jamie Heaslip sprays his team with champagne as Ireland win the Six Nations at Murrayfield Stadium at the end of the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell with the Six Nations Trophy (left), as Jamie Heaslip sprays his team with champagne as Ireland win the Six Nations at Murrayfield Stadium at the end of the 2015 RBS Six Nations match at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

Sam Griffin

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Alex White says he is in favour of adding Six Nations matches to the ‘free-to-air list’ but says no decision has been taken yet.

It is expected the minister will recommend to cabinet that the rugby competition be maintained on terrestrial television after the competition authorities said they would consider offering the coverage to the highest bidder.

Speaking on RTÉ television, Minister White said a report in today‘s Sunday Times was “a little previous” but added that he was in favour of the matches being watched by as many people as possible.

“No actual decision has been made yet but I think there is a case if you look at the Six Nations, the question I have to ask is does it have a distinct cultural significance or importance for Irish people,” he said.

“Anyone can see the success including the success on television as a television event with access for so many people to be able to see this.”

Legislation allows the Communications Minister to place certain television coverage on the ‘free-to-air’ list. Certain GAA and soccer coverage is already on the list, among other designated sports coverage.

However the move will likely be opposed by the IRFU who fear Ireland’s share of TV revenue could fall if the rugby competition is added to the list.

The minister said he would be consulting with various groups on the matter.

“I think there is a strong case for it but there is no decision yet. The act requires that I consult in particular with sporting bodies and I will do that and I look forward to doing that with the broadcasters RTE, TV3, TG4 and UTV – they will all be part of the picture and part of the decision, so there is no decision yet but I think there is a case for this.”

Asked about the IRFU opposition to the move, he replied: “I will respect what they (the IRFU) have to say.”

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