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By | August 1, 2001

      Julian Clover, Managing Editor

      The House of Lords has ruled that the rights of the public to watch sporting events of national importance should not be affected by whether or not the broadcaster resides in the same member state. The law lords ruling follows an appeal by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) against a High Court ruling that found in favour of TV Danmark.

      The Danish broadcaster, which uplinks its programmes from the UK to take advantage of Britain’s more liberal advertising laws, had been refused permission to transmit five soccer games involving the Danish national team.

      Lord Hoffmann said the ruling concerned the duty of the UK under European law to refuse a UK company permission to exercise exclusive rights to transmit the World Cup qualifiers because too few Danes would be able to watch them. UK legislation on the so-called ‘Crown Jewel’ events requires pay-TV broadcasters to seek transmission consent from the ITC before transmission. Added to this is the requirement of the European Television Without Frontiers directive to member states to ensure their own broadcasters do not televise an event that deprives a substantial proportion from another member state from watching.

      Danish law requires that a non-qualifying broadcaster, which obtains exclusive rights to an event, must be prepared to share them with other broadcasters at a reasonable price. Danmarks Radio and the quasi-commercial TV2 had been involved in the bidding process, but had not been offered non-exclusive rights. Asked by the ITC if it would be prepared to share its rights, TV Danmark refused.

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