GAA condemns ‘geo-blocking’

THE GAA has hit out at the ‘geo-blocking’ of its coverage on the island of Ireland, which is at times is preventing Fermanagh viewers from watching big games.
It’s not just GAA fans who have been left frustrated by the practice by broadcasters to block coverage of certain games and competitions north of the border, with everything from international soccer matches, rugby ties, and even the Olympics blocked from view to many Fermanagh viewers due to issues over geographic commercial broadcasting rights.
Following a discussion at a recent meeting of the local Council, chief executive Alison McCullagh wrote to RTE, Sky, the Irish government, Irish Rugby Football Union, and the GAA noting “the geo-blocking of television broadcasts involving Sky and RTE” was having “an adverse impact on viewers and residents in our district.” Ms McCullagh wrote that the Council was seeking “clarification as to where the responsibility lies in relation to this matter.”
So far only two of the organisations the Council wrote to have responded to the letters, sent in February – the GAA and Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht and Media in the South, Catherine Martin.
In his letter of reply, due to be delivered to the April of meeting of the Council last night (Tuesday), GAA president Larry McCarthy said the organisation sought “to reach as broad an audience as possible with its games and continuously tries to facilitate as much coverage of our games to members and fans on the island and around the world.”
“In relation to the island of Ireland, the GAA has always sold its broadcast rights on an ‘island of Ireland’ basis with zero geo-blocking restrictions imposed on our media partners,” said Mr McCarthy. “We do not endorse domestic geo-blocking of any kind.
“While we are aware of people not being able to access match coverage on occasion (something the GAA has always brought to the attention of its partners), this has by and large been a consequence of broadcasters’ own distribution capabilities, internet service provider recognition between different territories and, at times, simple human scheduling error.
“We will continue to work with our broadcast partners to address issues as they arise in an effort to make access to our games as straight forward as possible.”
In her reply to the Council, Minister Martin said geo-blocking was not a matter for her Department.
“While I recognise the adverse impact on viewers in Northern Ireland, at an operational level, the acquisition of sports rights and the geographical areas in which they are broadcast is a commercial matter for the relevant sporting bodies, which usually provide broadcast licences on an exclusive territorial basis” she wrote.
“My Department does not have a role in these commercial arrangements.”
Minister Martin added that, under the Broadcasting Act 2009, RTÉ was required to “establish, maintain and operate a national television and sound broadcasting service” which should “be a free-to-air service and be made available, in so far as it is reasonably practicable, to the whole community on the island of Ireland.”

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