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R&A rejects House of Lords call for free-to-air Open coverage

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The R&A has dismissed suggestions made by the House of Lords that the Open Championship should be broadcast on free-to-air television channels.

A report by the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee has called for the world’s oldest professional golf tournament as well as the Ashes to be given the same ‘protected status’ as the Olympic Games, World Cup and Grand National. 

The Open has, since 2016, been broadcast exclusively live in the UK by Sky Sports, although the BBC has retained rights to show event highlights.

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The report published by the committee says: “At a time of division, public service broadcasters play a role in unifying the country through shared experiences.

“The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should consult sporting bodies, broadcasters and the public with a view to increasing modestly the number of listed events.

“This could include events such as the Ashes and the Open Golf Championship."

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In response, the R&A, which runs the championship, has told bunkered.co.uk that it has happy with the present broadcasting arrangements.

A spokesman for the R&A told us: “We believe the current arrangement in the UK achieves an appropriate balance and best serves viewers. It has also enabled us to significantly enhance our investment in the sport. 

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“The offering for The Open is compelling for viewers of all ages with full opening-tee-shot-to-final-putt live coverage on Sky Sports, extended highlights and live radio coverage on the BBC and extensive video content on our digital and social media channels.” 

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Sky Sports, who, in July, signed a new deal to broadcast all four rounds of the Open exclusively live in the UK until at least 2024, also dismissed the peers’ concerns.

“Investment from broadcasters like Sky has enabled British sports to thrive over the past 30 years, bringing the country together at key sporting moments,” said a company spokesperson.

The 2020 Open Championship will be staged at Royal St George's in Kent from July 16-19, where Ireland's Shane Lowry will attempt to become the first player to successfully defend the Claret Jug since his compatriot Padraig Harrington did so in 2008.

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