Any deal to put the Six Nations behind a paywall would be “dreadful” for both audiences and the sport, the BBC director general has said.
The tender process for the rugby tournament’s next broadcasting contract is set to wrap up this weekend, but current holders BBC and ITV have been shut out of the bidding.
The Six Nations has told the public service broadcasters that no joint bid will be allowed, paving the way for pay-TV service Sky to steal the rights in a £300m deal.
Lord Tony Hall today slammed the restrictions, arguing that audiences had been “brilliantly served” by having the competition free to air.
“I think it would be dreadful if the Six Nations disappeared behind a paywall,” he said at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing this morning. “I think it is one of those events that brings us all together.”
The director general said the round-robin rugby was particularly popular with the BBC’s viewers in England, Scotland and Wales.
Despite the ban on joint bids, the BBC and ITV are still bidding for the contract through a deal that would see one broadcaster sub-license broadcasting rights to the other.
The Six Nations is currently in group B of the government’s listed events, meaning terrestrial broadcasters are guaranteed secondary rights.
But the government has faced calls to upgrade the sporting event to group A, putting it out of reach of pay-TV operators.
Asked if he supported this move, Hall today said: “That should be done, I’ve no doubt about that.”