Fight to the finish

IN many respects, the advent of Sky has revolutionised sportsbroadcasting. It has meant that events previously ignored byterrestrial operators, like England's overseas cricket tours and international football matches, are now screened in full. The diehard sports fan has never had so much to choose from.

Equally, many governing bodies, such as the England and Wales Cricket Board, are indebted to Sky for the money that it pays for broadcasting rights. It helps sustain their sport financially and explains why so many counties, Yorkshire included, are so opposed to any government move to force Ashes matches to be screened on free-to-air television.

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As Ofcom's comprehensive report yesterday shows, there's another consideration that must be taken into account – and that is the number of people who are able to watch such events, and whether Rupert Murdoch's empire is exploiting its market dominance by making it more expensive for rival cable operators to offer Sky Sports subscriptions to their consumers.

The public interest instincts of Ofcom are right. The difficulty is making them work in a free market – and when Sky has the financial muscle to resist change at all costs. To use sporting parlance, this fight to the finish has not even reached half-time.