New Zealanders' decades-long tradition of watching their top athletes compete at the Commonwealth Games on free-to-air television may be over. It was reported today that TVNZ had lost its 40-year grip on broadcasting the Games, to be held in India next year.
Pay television network Sky has apparently secured the rights to the Delhi Games after TVNZ had "thrown in the towel". However, both Sky and TVNZ staying mum this morning.
Sky Television director of communications Tony O'Brien would not field any questions on the broadcasting rights today. "We don't comment on media speculation," he said.
TVNZ corporate affairs spokeswoman Megan Richards could not be reached for comment.
New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary-general Barry Maister is in Ireland, but communications manager Ashley Abbott said the organisation "was not aware of any sale of rights".
MP Jim Anderton, who last year tried and failed to bring in a law to keep "iconic events" free-to-air, said it would be a "sad day" if the Games went to a pay TV network. "There are a lot of people the young, the old and those who can't afford it who are missing out on these iconic cultural events already." Mr Anderton said other countries had so-called "anti-siphoning laws" in place to protect events like the Commonwealth Games.
He said his bid to bring the same law to New Zealand last year, mainly for rugby and cricket tests, failed to get the numbers.
Former Commonwealth Games squash gold medallist Leilani Rorani, of Hamilton, was concerned that the event would be taken away from the public. "Not everyone will be able to watch the Commonwealth Games now. Lots of kids grew up in my generation being able to watch the Games. (They were) inspired because it wasn't pay TV."
Women's hockey team manager Debbie Balme said it would be disheartening to see the Games taken off free-to-air TV. "We're a sport that's trying to get ourselves out there."
Balme said the fact that next year's Games were in India meant that supporters would be hard pushed to make the journey and would be reliant on television coverage.