RTS cancels sports awards after BBC withdrawal

The BBC has prompted the cancellation of the Royal Television Society’s sports awards by refusing to submit any entries.

ITV feels particularly aggrieved by the cancellation, since it had hoped to scoop several prizes in 2008 through its coverage of the Rugby World Cup and F1 world championship.

BBC news executives complained earlier this year that the odds at the RTS television news awards were stacked against the corporation because commercial rivals on the juries were keen to freeze them out.

The RTS sports awards have suffered in recent times through an on-going boycott by Sky Sports, which began when former chief executive Tony Ball issued a company-wide edict not to waste time or money entering awards.

According to Guardian Unlimited, while other parts of the Sky empire have since relaxed the rules, Sky Sports chief Vic Wakeling is understood to have repeatedly “politely declined” the opportunity to enter the sports awards, which usually take place in May.

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The BBC has also ordered all departments to think more carefully about which awards to enter in the wake of director general Mark Thompson’s cuts announcement.

But the absence of Sky and Setanta, which between them hold the rights to many top sporting events, is believed to be the main driving force behind the decision.

The RTS chief executive, Simon Albury, said: “It’s true that it won’t be taking place and we’re very sorry it won’t be taking place.” Discussions are underway to include a sports category in one of the organisation’s other awards ceremonies, with hopes to bring the sports broadcasting awards back in 2009.

The Sports Journalists’ Association continues to include broadcasting in its annual sports journalism awards. Determined by a vote of the SJA membership, Sky Sport’s Jeff Stelling has been named as the SJA’s broadcaster of the year in 2005 and 2006, and BBC Radio 5’s Sportsweek, presented by Garry Richardson, won the programme of the year award earlier this year.

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