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Tokyo 2020 viewers in Northern Ireland blocked from watching live RTE coverage

The BBC has also received complaints about its lack of Olympic Games coverage after losing rights to Discovery

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Great Britain’s Bianca Walkden (left) in action against Poland’s Aleksandra Kowalczuk (right) during the Women +67kg Bronze Medal Contests at Makuhari Messe Hall A on the fourth day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Pic: PA

Great Britain’s Bianca Walkden (left) in action against Poland’s Aleksandra Kowalczuk (right) during the Women +67kg Bronze Medal Contests at Makuhari Messe Hall A on the fourth day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Pic: PA

PA

Great Britain’s Bianca Walkden (left) in action against Poland’s Aleksandra Kowalczuk (right) during the Women +67kg Bronze Medal Contests at Makuhari Messe Hall A on the fourth day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Pic: PA

Olympic Games fans in Northern Ireland have been unable to watch the events on RTE due to a TV rights issue.

BBC hold the rights to air a maximum of two live events at one time, through one television channel and a second feed provided through the red button service and online.

However, viewers wishing to watch the live events at the games on southern broadcaster RTE have been blocked from doing so.

Sinn Fein MLA Sinead Ennis said her party has raised the issue of ‘geo-blocking’ with RTE during previous meetings with the broadcaster.

“It is entirely unacceptable that northern viewers have been continuously blocked from viewing live sports and other programmes by southern broadcasters,” she stated.

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“This is unfair on the citizens living in the north of Ireland who deserve to be allowed to watch the Olympics and support those competing from here.

“The Olympic committee must look into this and reverse this decision for future Olympic events.”

Meanwhile, the BBC has received a large number of complaints about the lack of live Olympics coverage on its channels.

However, viewers failed to realise that the International Olympic Committee sold the majority of UK television rights to pay-TV company Discovery.

Olympic organisers sold the European rights for the games to the US company in a £920m deal.

Discovery has now put the vast majority of its coverage behind a paywall, which can only be accessed through their Eurosport channels or on the new £6.99-a-month streaming service Discovery+.

The current deal with the BBC was announced in 2016 and Tokyo 2020 is the first Olympic Games where it has came into affect.

During London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, the BBC was able to offer dozens of free lifestreams of different sports - giving many niche sports their first significant broadcasting.

Under the deal with the International Olympic Committee, Discovery is still required to make some coverage available on a free-to-air channel.

The US company stuck with the BBC for this element in the UK, allowing the broadcaster to buy a limited amount of coverage.

Viewers watching the taekwondo on BBC One on Sunday morning were disappointed to find the BBC Sport Twitter account announcing the winner when those watching the delayed coverage on television still did not know the outcome.

A BBC spokesperson told The Guardian they would continue to bring “all the must-see moments” to the British public, while there will continue to be extensive coverage on the radio and BBC Sport website.

But they confirmed that the era of widely accessible free coverage of all Olympic sports was over.

“The BBC is no longer able to offer livestreams of every sport during the Olympics due to the terms of the licensing arrangements laid down by the rights holder, Discovery,” they said.


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