Europe rules in favor of broadcasters over sports clips

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has issued a preliminary ruling for Free To Air broadcasters to continue showing clips from premium TV football matches to which pay TV operators hold exclusive rights. This follows dispute in Austria between News Corp subsidiary Sky Österreich and public broadcaster ORF over the latter’s access to football clips for news programmes. The dispute centers around European Directive 2010/13, which states that high-profile events acquired exclusively by pay TV operators should be made available to broadcasters for news bulletins, but not necessarily for use in entertainment shows.

In this case, the picture has been complicated because ORF originally agreed to pay for access to football clips. The story began in August 2009, when Sky Sports Austria had acquired rights to Europa League, and ORF then agreed to pay €700 per minute for reports on the matches. But then in November 2009 at the request of ORF, regulator KommAustria said Sky was not entitled to demand payment greater than the cost of providing access to the satellite signal, which is a negligible sum. Furthermore the relevant article of European Directive 2010/13 itself came into force after the exclusive contract was agreed. This leaves it unclear whether this preliminary ruling will be finally upheld. Meanwhile, the case is being watched with interest across the European Union by broadcasters that in some cases have paid heavily to acquire equivalent premium sports clip screening rights.