7 Jan 2010

Government 'inconsistent' over sports broadcasting rights

7:43 am on 7 January 2010

The Government is being accused of inconsistency over broadcasting rights for major sporting events.

Television New Zealand is selling the coverage rights to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India to Sky TV, which will screen the event on its subscription channels, and its free-to-air channel Prime.

Radio New Zealand understands the rights were bought by the pay TV network for about $US4 million - half the amount state broadcaster TVNZ originally paid for them.

TVNZ will not comment on the amount, but says over time the deal will become cost neutral. It says it would have lost about $NZ5 million if it broadcast the Games from Delhi, which begin on 3 October.

Labour's broadcasting spokesperson Brendan Burns says the Government has said nothing about the Games decision, despite intervening in a bid by the Maori Television Service last year to broadcast the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Mr Burns says the Government claimed Maori TV could not be seen in enough New Zealand homes, when in fact its reach is about the same as Prime's.

He believes Sky's growing dominance as a sports broadcaster will hurt viewers.

The head of the New Zealand Broadcasting School, Paul Norris, says big sporting events often lose money - something TVNZ cannot afford, because the Government is demanding bigger dividends.