Coming next on the minority channel dedicated to innovation and unheard voices – England internationals. Yes, the channel fighting privatisation has signed a contract to cover the most mainstream of mainstream sports.
ITV previously had the rights to Euro qualifiers and friendlies although the UEFA Nations League games were on Sky. Before that, major England games were on BBC One.
It is hard to see how this fits into any reasonable interpretation of Channel 4’s remit even if they find ways of making the coverage itself or presentation innovative. The best that can be said is that successful, popular coverage can subsidise other things done by the channel.
Of course, Channel 4 has shown other mainstream sports over the years – not least horse racing, test matches and Formula 1. But home football is in a different league, so to speak, and again it is a reminder of how different Channel 4 now is to the channel it once was.
Another possible issue is that kick-off times could clash with Channel 4 News.
The channel is still fighting against privatisation. This week’s White Paper from the Government confirmed their intention to sell the channel.
If you were trying to convince the public Channel 4 is still different and special, about the last thing you would do is sign a contract for mainstream football. They might as well have poached Ant and Dec.
The debate on Channel 4’s future has aroused passions within the industry but largely failed to engage the viewing public. They seem to have been left perplexed by what it could mean for them.
This latest move will not help Channel 4’s argument. The football rights could even make it more attractive to a buyer.
Or is someone going to seriously claim with a straight face that a privatised broadcaster would not want to show the national game?
Sadly for opponents of Channel 4 privatisation, it is beginning to seem like one famous phrase associated with England’s national team could be used: “They think it’s all over. It is now.”
PICTURED: Channel 4 ident. COPYRIGHT: Channel 4 Television Corporation.