The event is currently seen as a 'group B' event by the British government
It’s the great fear for the average rugby fan – that in these tough economic times, the Six Nations slides away from free-to-air television and onto a subscription service, effectively putting it behind a paywall.
The Six Nations is currently on the ‘group B’ list of the British government’s “crown jewels” list. Operating standards at the moment mean that ‘group A’ events like the FIFA World Cup, Wimbledon, the Olympic Games and the Rugby world Cup final must be offered to free-to-air broadcasters (BBC, ITV, and Channel 4) for “fair and reasonable terms”. For the group B events, which Six Nations is, can go to subscription services, provided that highlights are given to free-to-air channels.
However, with the current deal to show Six Nations on BBC and ITV to conclude in 2025, the UK government has responded to calls from Wales to move the Six Nations onto the A list of “crown jewell” events by saying there is “no plans to undertake a full review of the list”. The Welsh Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons had been pressing for a change, and say they will now consider next moves.
What has been said about threat of Six Nations paywall move
Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb leads the select committee and has said: “We know there’s an agenda out there, we know there are people pushing for the Six Nations to be marketed off to the highest bidder, there’s an agenda to create a new world league as well.
“We just think there’s something at risk of being lost here for the nation of Wales given the importance of the Six nations in our national life, for our culture and our heritage, we still think that there’s a really strong case for the government to protect that tournament.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said of changing their list of top category events to stave off Six Nations paywall threat: “The listed events regime aims to ensure many of the nation’s biggest sporting events are free-to-air wherever possible while protecting competition organisers’ ability to raise income from the sale of broadcast rights to invest in their sports.
“We believe the current list strikes an appropriate balance, with protections in place for highlights of the Six Nations tournament and live coverage of the Rugby World Cup final, and therefore have no plans to amend the regime.”
Has the Six Nations been on subscription services before?
In 2015, Sky were invited to bid for the rights to air the Six Nations, but were defeated by a joint bid from the BBC and ITV.
However, the Six Nations has only been exclusively free-to-air since 2003, with England’s home games shown on Sky from 1997 to 2002.
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