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Sports may suffer from £150m BBC spending cuts

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A number of sports shown on the BBC are at risk of a drop in exposure and audience figures as part of the broadcaster's plans for £150m worth of spending cuts.

The way people watch the BBC's coverage of Wimbledon and several other sporting events may be affected if it is forced to close its Red Button service.

The interactive service was launched in 2008 in its current guise as a replacement for Ceefax, and hosts elements of a number of events such as the flagship tennis tournament and iconic music festival Glastonbury.

A selection of athletics events, Saturday football round-up Final Score and access to Radio 5’s Test Match Special are also available through the service.

The “phased exit” of the Red Button forms part of the concessions being made to make-up the shortfall from the ‘iPlayer loophole’ – the calculated drop in licence fee the BBC shoulders as a result of people just using its services online.

The move is expected to contribute to savings of £16m and will allow the BBC to focus on its interactive TV offer on connected televisions and BBC iPlayer.

A substantial chunk of the £150m will be saved through the corporation rowing back from some of its sports rights.

Formula One coverage, which it shares with Sky, athletics and minority sports are likely to be examined as the BBC looks to trim £35m from its sporting output.

Wimbledon, Match of the Day and the World Cup and European Championships are expected to be safe, but the public service broadcaster has already lost coverage of golf’s Open tournament and will now share the rugby Six Nations rights with ITV until at least 2021.

The BBC also lost the rights to the Olympic and Winter Olympic Games to US broadcaster Discovery between 2020 and 2024.

The £150m cut is part of £700m of total savings the BBC has earmarked after agreeing to a flat licence fee in addition to taking on the expense of free licence fees for over-75s from the government – a funding deal made with culture secretary John Whittingdale and chancellor George Osborne this summer.

BBC director general Tony Hall said that the corporation’s financial predicament “means there is no alternative”.

“The BBC is doing everything possible to make sure the impact on the public is minimised,” he added.

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A number of sports shown on the BBC are at risk of a drop in exposure and audience figures as part of the broadcaster's plans for £150m worth of spending cuts.
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The BBC's coverage of events like Wimbledon may be scaled back as part of the cuts / Shutterstock.com

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