As part of a continuous attempt to move away from geoblocking and towards a Digital Single Market (“DSM”), the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council agreed, last 13 December 2018, to facilitate access to sports radio content within the new EU broadcasting rules, a move which the Premier League has criticised. This comes much to the sports industry’s surprise as EU lawmakers and national governments had explicitly excluded sports coverage from these rules in discussions just over twelve months ago.
Until now, sports coverage had always been excluded from the EU’s aim to create seamless movement of internet content due to the specificities of the demand for it in each market in the EU, the high value of its rights, and the enhanced need to protect them. Under the EU’s new proposed broadcasting rules, broadcasters have the right to clear sports coverage for pan-European radio broadcasts under licensing as sports content falls within the scope of radio programmes which can air across the EU as long as they comply with national copyright rules in their home country. This means, for example, that a French broadcaster would be able to get a licence for Premier League matches, whereas under the current rules, which allow geoblocking, a listener in France cannot legally listen to football games broadcasted on BBC Radio 5 Live. Sports content is therefore included in the EU’s move towards a DSM.