Access to Major Events on Television under European Law

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Technological developments within the broadcasting sector, the emergence of more commercially minded sports governing bodies, and an insatiable popular appetite to consume sport on television have resulted in a growing number of major sporting events being broadcast on pay-TV rather than on a free-to-air basis. The paper explores attempts to secure public access on free-to-air television through the provisions of Article 3a of the European Union’s Television Without Frontiers Directive and the changes introduced by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. In doing so it assesses the consequences of the legislation on consumers, broadcasters, sports governing bodies, and other interested stakeholders. The regime appears to have wide support yet has attracted critical comment from those unable to identify clarity and justification in the choices made by the Community legislature. The paper broadly agrees with these concerns but focuses the attention on the reasons for choosing the regime. It argues that regulation is sustained by two contradictory arguments. First, it is defended on the grounds that the EU’s sports policy subsystem has become infected with single market and commercial norms which have undermined the socio-cultural basis of sport and contributed to a juridification of sport. In these terms, the access rules represent a defence of these traditional values. Second, they are defended on the grounds that, due to its specificity and public character, sport has been afforded a wide margin of appreciation by the EU and that the type of regulation allowed for is a down payment on this immunity and a reflection of the state’s stake in sport. Clearly both arguments cannot be simultaneously sustained. The paper explores these arguments by locating the analysis within the context of Sabatier’s advocacy coalition framework. The paper’s focus is limited to the impact on sporting events rather than other “major events” and it only briefly considers the issue of short reporting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-98
JournalJournal of Consumer Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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