Paralympics could be protected on free-to-air TV as C5 locked out of showing listed events


Additional sports events are set to become protected on free-to-air TV, with the Government planning to make changes to its list of protected sporting events.

Of the main UK-wide free-to-air channels that are allowed to carry such events, Channel 5 has been excluded - despite having been a qualifying service before - because it doesn't yet offer a widely available online streaming option.

The secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - currently Jeremy Wright - is responsible for maintaining the list, and according to BBC News and The Times, is to add the Paralympics to the list with the Women's Football World Cup and Women's FA Cup also being proposed for future inclusion. But there are no plans to force live men's cricket to be shown on free-to-air television, despite recent calls for cricket to become more widely available.

So far, the Paralympics and Women's Football already appear on free-to-air television. But their inclusion in the list would restrict pay TV operators from taking the exclusive rights.

The move to add new sporting events follows a recent consultation by Ofcom, who are responsible for maintaining a list of channels that qualify to show listed events. Qualifying channels have to reach at least 95% of the UK on a free-to-air basis.

In a statement published this month by Ofcom, it confirmed that in order to qualify as a channel that can show listed events, a channel needs to be a service available nationally on a so-called PSB DTT multiplex for Freeview, as well as on satellite and cable, and streamed over IPTV.

While the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 all stream their services widely via apps and websites which can be accessed across multiple devices, Channel 5's provision was found to be falling short of the standard required, with the Channel 5 live stream only being provided by the broadcaster on Android and iOS devices via the My5 app - an insufficient number of devices, according to Ofcom.  Ofcom has indicated it will continue to review the list of qualifying services in line with its proposals, meaning Channel 5 may once again qualify.

The services that as of July 2019 do qualify to show listed events (although some wouldn't, as sport is not within their remit) are:
• BBC One
• BBC Two 
• BBC Four 
• CBBC 
• CBeebies 
• BBC News 
• BBC Parliament 
• Channel 3 network (broadcast as ITV, STV, UTV) 
• ITV2 
• ITV3 
• ITV4 
• Channel 4 
• Film 4 
• More 4

Source: Ofcom
correct as of 18th July 2019. 
Update: For the avoidance of doubt, only the SD versions of the channels qualify.


  • The "Code on Sports and Other Listed and Designated Events", to give the provision its full legal title, came about as a result of the 1996 Broadcasting Act. Its inclusion in the Act followed an EU Directive called "Television without Frontiers", which required each EU member state to create a list of protected sporting events that had to be shown on free-to-air television. Each country could create its own list, relevant to the sporting interests of their country. The UK Government has committed to retaining the list beyond Brexit.
  • What is a DTT PSB (Digital Terrestrial Television Public Service Broadcasting) multiplex? There are multiplexes of channels that broadcast Freeview channels. Three of them are designated for Public Service Broadcasting, and as a result are broadcast from every main and relay transmitter in the UK. The remaining multiplexes are commercial multiplexes and have a lower UK coverage - typically reaching no more than 91% of households, meaning the channels broadcasting on these multiplexes don't reach enough viewers to count as a qualifying service to show listed events. (Part of the consultation undertaken by Ofcom was to see if their reduced Freeview coverage could be cancelled out by reach of free-to-air satellite, cable and internet streams.)