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Ashes set for free-to-air return

Ashes set for terrestrial TV return

The Ashes would be part of a smaller select list of events

England's home Ashes Tests are set to return to free-to-air television following a review of sport's "listed events", BBC Sport understands.

International football qualifiers for the home nations, the Wimbledon tennis championship and golf's Open championship are also on the list.

But flat racing's showpiece, the Epsom Derby, and rugby league's Challenge Cup final are both expected to be removed.

The detailed recommendations are set to be confirmed on Friday morning.

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Last summer's Ashes, won by England, were shown exclusively live on Sky Sports, the first time a home series against Australia had not been available to viewers without a subscription package.

But in December 2008, Andy Burnham, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, announced a review into the sporting events that should be safeguarded on free-to-air television.

Reflecting on the success of the Beijing Olympics, he said "the broadcast of big sports events... get young people inspired by sport, driving sports participation and the creation of the next generation of sports stars."

He added: "The sale of TV rights helps fund grassroots sport, so we need to get the balance right."

Former FA executive director David Davies was appointed to head the review.

In 1998 home Test match cricket was controversially axed from the list of "crown jewel" events, paving the way for the England and Wales Cricket Board to negotiate a series of multi-million pound deals with BSkyB over coverage.

Andrew Strauss
England won the last home Ashes series this summer, televised on Sky

The ECB will now argue that, by depriving satellite broadcasters from entering the market-place for the most popular home Test matches, their revenue will diminish substantially - and that will have a knock-on effect for the funding of county cricket and the grassroots game.

In August 2008, it signed a new four-year television deal with Sky Sports and Five (who broadcast daily highlights of home Tests), worth a combined £300m and running from 2010 until 2013.

James Munro, BBC sports news correspondent, said the 2005 Ashes Test series victory, screened on Channel 4 and watched by millions, had sparked a "national celebration" whereas this year's success had not caught the public imagination in the same way.

He added: "You have what David Davies would describe as 'moments of national resonance' - in other words important events that everyone has a right to see free-to-air."

If the proposed changes were to come into effect, the next home Ashes series (2013) would remain on Sky, with the first to switch back to terrestrial TV being the 2017 rubber.



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see also
TV's 'crown jewels' Q & A
13 Nov 09 |  Sport Homepage
Scottish FA dismayed by TV plan
13 Nov 09 |  Internationals
BBC renews radio cricket contract
23 Dec 08 |  England
Brown worry on football coverage
11 Sep 08 |  UK Politics
Uefa eyes change to free TV football
06 Jun 08 |  Business
ECB extends deals with Sky & Five
05 Aug 08 |  Cricket
ITV scores in FA Cup rights fight
30 Mar 07 |  Business
ECB wants active TV rights market
14 Jul 06 |  Cricket


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