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BBC and ITV retain rights to Fifa World Cup until 2014

LONDON - Broadcasters BBC and ITV are to bring the 2010 and 2014 World Cup to the nation's television screens, ensuring it is once more available without charge to viewers.

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The announcement comes following a deal with Fifa for the rights to show all 64 matches in each tournament, including highlights.

ITV director of programmes Nigel Pickard called the deal hugely important.

"As the choice of channels increases, live events are ever more important to attract national audiences -- and they don't come any bigger than the football World Cup."

BBC director-general Mark Thompson said: "We are delighted to have secured the rights for one of the biggest sporting events on the planet and that once again the whole competition is being made available on a free-to-air basis to the audience."

Both channels are to screen the 2006 tournament, which takes place in Germany. The 2010 World Cup is scheduled for South Africa with the venue for the 2014 finals still to be decided.

Past decisions by Fifa on rights selling have proved controversial. In 2001 football's governing body sold the rights to German media group Kirch, prompting harsh criticism from then BBC director-general Greg Dyke and a row between Kirch, ITV and the BBC over rights costs.

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