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Cheltenham and Heineken Cup to show on free TV

THE Cheltenham racing festival, Six Nations rugby and the Heineken Cup are to be added to a list of "protected" sports events that must be shown live for free on Irish TV.

Plans are afoot to extend the selection of events that are available to sofa supporters on free-to-air television.

It means none of the events can be shown only on paid-for TV services, such as Sky Sports, in the future.


GAA provincial football and hurling finals and the All Ireland quarter final and semi finals are also on the list.

Communications Minister Eamon Ryan has deemed the fixtures to be of "major importance to society" in Ireland.

"These events are part of what we are as a nation and their enjoyment should be available to all," Mr Ryan said.

"These special events should not be limited to those who have a subscription or pay-per-view service.

"They warrant the widest possible access for Irish people."

Some of the events, such as Ireland's Six Nations games, are already shown free-to-air. The new legislation means they will be protected forever -- if the proposals become law.

The other events currently on the protected list are the Olympics, Ireland's home and away games in the football World Cup and European Championship, the rugby World Cup, the GAA All Ireland football and hurling semi finals and finals, the Irish Grand National and Irish Derby and the Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show.


Ireland's games in the Six Nations are to be moved from a deferred to live basis as well as the Heineken Cup when an Irish team is participating.

The minister must consult the public, organisers of the events and broadcasters before the new Audiovisual Media Services Directive comes into force.

The consultation process ends on June 4 2010.

After that, the list will go to the European Commission for final approval.

The directive amends and renames the Television Without Frontiers Directive, providing less detailed but more flexible regulation.

It also modernises TV advertising rules to better finance audiovisual content.

In addition, any broadcaster established in the EU has guaranteed access to exclusively transmitted events of high public interest for the purpose of transmitting short news reports.