Former BBC bosses call for change in rules after complaints over Olympics coverage

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 (PA)
(PA)

Two former BBC chairmen have called on the government to investigate changing broadcast rules so that viewers can watch more of the Olympic Games for free.

Lord Grade and Sir Michael Lyons told the Daily Mail that the lack of comprehensive coverage of Tokyo 2020 has been “disappointing” and asked politicians to consider broadening the rules on sporting events that must be shown on free-to-air TV.

Currently, the BBC can broadcast a maximum of two live Olympics events at a time – despite airing numerous simultaneous events during the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games.

The change came about as part of a near-£1billion deal signed by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and US media giant Discovery in 2016. As part of the deal, the BBC reportedly signed away its rights to show all Olympic sports in return for access to future Games.

Lorde Grade, who chaired the BBC between 2004 and 2006, told the Mail: “I think that Parliament needs to look at this and find some way, not of interfering in the market, but making sure that there is fuller coverage on free-to-air.

“It’s a huge disappointment to people not to be able to have the usual fuller BBC coverage. The Olympic Games belong to everyone really.”

Sir Michael, Lord Grade’s successor, said that ‘listed events’ rules should be broadened to ensure free-to-air broadcasters like the BBC can show all Olympics events.

He told the Mail: “It is disappointing to see so little.”

The change has sparked a slew of complaints from viewers used to enjoying much wider ranging free coverage on the BBC.

One such complaint came from Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, who told the Mail: “It looks like the BBC got a very poor deal for both licence-fee payers and viewers.

“Clearly Discovery were laughing all the way to the bank.”

The BBC have repeatedly defended their Olympics coverage.

BBC Sports executive Ron Chakraborty wrote in a blog post: “Whilst we’d love to still have 24 live streams and our ‘never miss a moment’ offer from London and Rio in 2016, our new rights deal simply doesn’t allow it.

“We might not have every moment, we’re confident that we can still be the home of the big moments.”

He added the BBC understand that the “need to jump in and out of sports” to capture those big moments “can be frustrating”.

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