Sport Article

Free-to-Air List

by Mark James on
Free-to-Air List - Lincolnshire Magazine -

With the Government now confirming that the summer and winter Paralympic Games have been added to the 'crown jewels' list of protected sports events, it would be good to give the list and explain a little how it which ensures these sports will remain available for free-to-air television broadcasters in the future, reaching the widest possible audience, and not go behind a pay-wall.


The first iteration of the code was a voluntary agreement between the BBC and ITV that neither would seek exclusive rights on certain events. The list was increasingly widened to include many sporting events and was included in the Broadcasting Act 1996, which gave the Secretary of State discretionary powers to add and remove events from the list after consultation with certain parties. The legislation also gave Ofcom the power to impose fines for failure to comply with the prohibition on exclusively broadcasting events on the list without their prior consent.

The Broadcasting Act 1996 gives the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport discretion to designate sporting and other events of national interest as listed events. Once listed, broadcasting rights to such events must be available to the main free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters ("qualifying broadcasters").

Qualifying broadcasters are those which reach 95% coverage of UK viewers and at no additional cost to the viewer than the television licence fee. Broadcasters currently meeting these criteria are BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four, CBBC, CBeebies, BBC News, BBC Parliament, ITV, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, Channel 4, More 4, Film 4 and Channel 5.

Adding Paralympic Games

On 18 July 2019 former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright wrote to the BBC, S4C, Ofcom and the International Paralympic Committee to consult those bodies on adding the Paralympic games to the listed events regime. The Secretary of State also wrote to Channel 4, which currently holds the broadcasting rights for the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020.

Following the consultation process, the Government has concluded that the summer and winter Paralympic Games meet the criteria for addition to the listed events regime, on the basis that the Paralympic Games are an event of 'special national significance' and provide a 'shared moment on the national calendar'.

The revised list of free-to-air listed events

Group A (Full Live Coverage Protected)

  • The Olympic Games

  • The Paralympic Games

  • The FIFA World Cup Finals Tournament

  • The European Football Championship Finals Tournament

  • The FA Cup Final

  • The Scottish FA Cup Final (in Scotland)

  • The Grand National

  • The Wimbledon Tennis Finals

  • The Rugby World Cup Final

  • The Derby

  • The Rugby League Challenge Cup Final

Group B (Secondary Coverage Protected)

  • Cricket Test Matches played in England

  • Non-Finals play in the Wimbledon Tournament

  • All Other Matches in the Rugby World Cup Finals Tournament

  • Six Nations Rugby Tournament Matches Involving Home Countries

  • The Commonwealth Games

  • The World Athletics Championship

  • The Cricket World Cup - the Final, Semi-finals and Matches Involving Home Nations' Teams

  • The Ryder Cup

  • The Open Golf Championship