Leather on Willow
I’m not one to jump bandwagons on these pages, and it’s hardly as if this is important in the great scheme of things, but, to quote the celebrated Oscar Wilde: “My blog! My blog! Nananananana! I can’t hear you!”
On Monday, seven and a half million people watched England win the Ashes on Channel Four. The climax to the outstanding second test in August was seen by a million more. In contrast, most sporting events on Sky are seen by no more than 400,000 people, peaking at little more than a million – mostly in pubs – for the really big events.
So, guess who’s got the rights for ALL England test cricket from now on?
In 1999, the British government quietly took Test Cricket off the “A List” of sporting events – the so-called “Crown Jewels” – guaranteed by the 1996 Broadcasting Act coverage on free-to-air television. This came only a year after then culture minister Chris Smith and the English Cricket Board agreed that – for the good of the game – Test Cricket should remain on our screens. The public interest being far more important than cold, hard cash.
In the same year test cricket was snapped up by Channel Four after the BBC refused to pay a market value for the rights, and there was much talk of doom. In the event, Four made a rather good fist of covering home test matches, while foreign tours disappeared down into the darkness of Sky coverage, whose grudging granting of news clip and late-night highlights programmes were of little comfort to the sports fan.
And now, live cricket will disappear from free-to-air screens. The ECB will get a shed-load of cash, but the game will lose widespread exposure and can only suffer as a consequence. Also, I will not be able to watch it at work, and that’s the worst thing of all. Victory for filthy lucre, then.
I’ve got a feeling it’s far too late, and I’m certain no bugger’s going to listen, but if you’re as concerned as I am at yet another piece of our national heritage being sold off to the Dirty Digger, hop over to http://www.keepcricketfree.com, sign their petition and rattle a letter off to your MP.
If your MP happens to be acid-faced midget Tessa Jowell (who is, happily, in charge of this very section of the Broadcasting Act), I’ve still got her under my stairs, so send your shit-filled envelopes [plus fifty quid handling fee] via my place.
Why now? Because cricket’s in the news, that’s why. Strike while the iron is hot and while I’m currently hating football. Get in there!
Update: The Sun (prop: R. Murdoch) doesn't see a problem. Funny, that.
Updated update: The Royal Mail is to produce a commemorative set of stamps to celebrate the Ashes victory. The 68p one [postage to Australia] should be a top seller...
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