TalkSport calls for BBC probe

Kelvin MacKenzie’s TalkSport radio station has written to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) requesting an investigation into BBC sports deals, which it believes are anti-competitive.

In its letter to the OFT, TalkSport accuses the BBC of abusing its dominant position to acquire the radio rights to sporting events.

Last week, the BBC retained the five-year contract to broadcast domestic Test cricket, despite TalkSport claiming it put in a “substantially” higher bid of £7.5m plus £2m of “additional value” support.

TalkSport claims the England & Wales Cricket Board favoured the BBC because the corporation gave assurances that it would cross-promote the radio coverage on its other services, which include TV.

The commercial station believes this contravenes Section 18 (1) of the Competition Act 1998, which prohibits exploitative behaviour by a dominant party which would adversely affect free trade in the UK.

TalkSport owner the Wireless Group believes it is unable to expand and compete effectively as the TV and radio group’s interests are limited by statute.

The letter lists a number of points it claims support the call for an investigation. These include the fact that the BBC does not list TalkSport in the Radio Times, as well as the BBC’s ability to acquire bundled TV and radio rights through the European Broadcasting Union.

A BBC spokesman says: “Kelvin is just a bad loser. We won this contract fair and square. It is nonsense to say it breaches competition law.”

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