THE loss by RTE of the broadcasting rights for the Olympic Games has been branded "a sad day for sport" by a government minister.
Sports minister Michael Ring said he is concerned at the likely loss of broadcasting rights for future Olympics after US-based Discovery signed a €1.3bn exclusive deal for rights to all summer and winter Olympic Games from 2018.
"RTE cannot compete with these big multinational companies, and that is what is happening all over the world now, and what I worry about is sport itself," Mr Ring said.
"I don't want to see this being what happens in the future.
"I want to see people being able to participate in all sports whether it's the Olympics, whether it's soccer, whether it's rugby. I want to see it free to air, we have to watch this.
"It's a bad day for sport, because if this is not free to air, we won't have as many people watching it, we won't have as many people following the sport," he added.
"I wouldn't like to see a situation in this country where we have to pay to see everything in sport. I think it's a sad day for sport, and I think it's a sad day for the sporting organisations.
"It's very disappointing and, ultimately, sports fans will lose out. In the long run, sports will be the loser."
Discovery's pan-European deal to broadcast the Olympics will see the games air on Eurosport.
Some of the coverage will be sub-licensed to European markets.
RTE, who previously secured the rights to all Olympics Games through the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), is "hopeful" Discovery will give them the opportunity to sub-license the 2020 and 2024 Games.
"RTE remains optimistic that a solution can be found," a statement from the state broadcaster said.
"RTE will make every effort to secure the rights for the summer Olympic Games in 2020 and 2024 so Irish viewers can watch home-produced, relevant coverage of Irish athletes competing both in Tokyo in 2020 and at the 2024 summer games," it added.