vlcsnap-2016-08-06-15h19m40s6The Silly Season has not always been the exclusive province of Fleet Street. British television’s summer schedules traditionally adhere to the theory that the viewers whose ratings contributions can be relied upon in the autumn and winter months are busy enjoying themselves outdoors; whether grilling severed segments of animal carcasses at barbeques or gridlocked in traffic jams en route to holiday destinations, watching the telly is supposedly low on the list of activities. The mainstream channels respond accordingly and basically shove all their shit on when they think nobody is watching. Granted, these days it’s not always evident what time of the year one is watching the box, so low have standards sunk; but if you want the worst British TV can offer, June, July and August are the months to tune-in. It feels to me like quite a gamble on the part of programme schedulers, considering the wayward nature of the Great British Summer, though the practice nevertheless persists.

Sport can be viewed as summer’s saving grace from the point of view of TV mandarins, the one guarantee of high viewing figures. Wimbledon is an annual dead-cert, especially if Andy Murray does the business, and then there are always the bi-annual attractions of the alternating World Cup or Olympic Games. Of course, in an era of Sky and other specialist sports channels, pickings are thinner on the ground for mainstream terrestrial broadcasters. In recent years, the BBC has surrendered numerous major events to Murdoch and his ilk, yet it’s interesting to look at how the BBC – more so than ITV – used to juggle its abundance of live coverage.

A glance through some copies of the Radio Times from the summer of 1974 sees live test cricket coverage on both BBC1 and BBC2 in the week that the World Cup in West Germany kicks off, though largely occupying those great swathes of empty hours on the junior BBC channel and only appearing on the senior channel when the schools programmes are finished for the day. When the World Cup begins at the back-end of the week, the teatime children’s schedule is shunted over to BBC2, though normal programming is only temporarily shuffled due to the fact that ITV is also covering the tournament – as was the case with the Olympics up to (and including) Moscow 1980.

A month later, live coverage of the Open Golf Championship and the England Vs India test series is juggled with International Show Jumping (yes, live!) and then Wimbledon. Yet, even though all of these sports are exclusive to the BBC, there is room within a two-channel system to accommodate them all as well as regular programming for those for whom sport holds no interest whatsoever. Other events trumpeted during what the RT keeps referring to as ‘Great Summer of Sport’ include the British Grand Prix, county championship cricket, international athletics, horse-racing and USPGA golf. Quite a line-up to cram into two channels, yet the BBC managed it without intruding too much upon everything else and incurring the wrath of the ‘I don’t pay my licence fee for this kind of thing’ brigade.

During the last Olympics, which were held (how could we forget?) in London, the BBC not only swamped BBC1 and BBC2 with disciplines, but also made use of its red button facility as well as BBC3. The way in which the Corporation’s outlets were ruthlessly utilised for an event that its ancient rival no longer covered seemed to support occasional demands for a specialist sports channel to be added to the expanding BBC portfolio. In 2012, BBC4 was left standing as the solitary Beeb TV alternative to the Olympics overkill, and though I myself (as with many other non-fanatics) was occasionally swept up in the euphoria as the nation’s athletes shot up the medal table, it was nice to have an escape that wasn’t one of the dumb & dumber ITV digital channels.

In the summer of 2012, Jimmy Savile’s posthumous shadow had yet to cast itself across the Corporation, and the era of spineless kowtowing to Parliamentary Select Committees, Murdoch and the Mail hadn’t been envisaged; little did the BBC know what was around the corner during the heady evening of ‘Super Saturday’ at the Olympic Stadium. How things have changed four years on. Timid downsizing is the order of the day. BBC3 has disappeared online and the BBC has to constantly justify its existence. With this in mind, it pours its resources into the great sporting events it still has live coverage of, and the decision has been taken to essentially hand over the entire remaining BBC TV channels to Rio for the next three weeks.

BBC1, BBC2 and even BBC4 have effectively been rebranded as ‘BBC Sports’ for the duration of the 2016 Olympic Games, even though time differences between Blightly and Brazil should mean that most of the contest will probably be taking place live in the wee small hours, thus negating daytime dominance. This, however, is not the impression given via a cursory glance through this week’s edition of the Radio Times. The evidence suggests there is no break in the sporting schedule whatsoever; it’s a 24-hour service. London 2012 was different in that the Olympics were here for the first time since 1948, and the BBC was expected to go a little overboard; but no such excuse can be offered up this time round. Basically, if you don’t like sport, there’s always…er…well, DVD box-sets, I guess.

Leaving the BBC viewer without a BBC alternative is pretty bloody outrageous; but every single second of every single moment of this tournament has to be broadcast by the BBC in order that it can continue to cover the competition every four years, so terrified is it of losing out to commercial competitors. Imagine if it still had access to all the sports it had access to in 1974 – what would it do? I dread to think; but I’ve a feeling that sandwiching them between programmes for non-sporty types would not be an option now.

© The Editor

17 thoughts on “SPORT FOR ALL

  1. The BBC is funded by a compulsory tax that raises upwards of £4billion a year. Despite all that money, they’ve either been outbid or have given up most of the “crown jewels” of sport. And when they do cover an event it’s utter overkill. Hundreds of staff to cover the World Cup. Hundreds to cover the annual BBC awayday at Glastonbury, and what for? Eurosport does a better job with two commentators and a tea boy, using the official broadcast feed. Sky provide a far superior product for the events they cover, and all the BBC can do is to imitate it. So what DO the BBC spend their money on?
    It seems that they have plenty of expertise but no imagination, relying on retreads and reruns and property porn. A sad and predictable decline of an institution that has lost its way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is interesting/outrageous that the BBC has sent more than 450 staff on a long international ‘jolly’ to cover this irrelevent game-fest, interesting because there are 366 competitors in the Team GB, so each one has approximately 1.3 Beeboids to themselves.

    Any why even send that 366 ? Team GB is hopeful of a mere 50 medals, so that means more than 86% of their team are expected to fail – in what other area of life would you invest such vast sums with an 86% expectation of failure ? Remember, these are apparently professional athletes, not just gifted amateurs, and supposedly at the top of their profession, yet despite an anticipated 86% failure rate they still collect the loot and the gold-plated expenses. Perhaps only politics can match that abysmal formula for failure and reward.

    However, behind it all must be the recognition that this utter waste of time and effort represents the second part of the ‘bread & circuses’ approach, in which the state broadcaster is always a key player. Whether it’s soap opera, Strictly or sport, it is considered necessary to flood the feeble brains of the hard-of-thinking with such cranial candy-floss in order to prevent them having the spare capacity to realise what’s being done to them. And guess what, it works, and they even pay for it themselves – genius.

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    1. Not arguing about the BBC.

      But the sportsmen? Sport for sport’s sake surely? Just like art for art’s sake ?

      (And money, for God’s sake!)


      1. Although not defending art excess, sport and art are completely different.
        Sport is based on objective measures of performance, thus making it simple to define an agreed difference between success and failure – in Olympic terms, that means medals, nothing more, nothing less, if you don’t get a medal, you failed, the shade of the medal indicating the degree of success.

        Art, in all its forms, is entirely subjective, allowing different people to take extremely different views of the same output and I have no problem with that, despite being a cultural Philistine.

        (I’ll accept that some areas of ‘sport’, such as rhythmic gymnastics and ice dancing are either art forms or circus acts depending on your viewpoint, but real sport is the stuff which can be measured objectively).

        Whether public funds should ever be used on art (or sport) which cannot sustain itself commercially, is an entirely different debate – a monstrous public sculpture, an international jolly for a no-hoper or a few hundred hip-replacements ………. you decide.


      2. It’s not a choice between hip replacements and sport – unless you believe lottery funding should go to the health service?

        Sport is recognised for the best at a certain time in a certain event – but the “also rans/jumped/competed” may still be the best their community has ever produced. Finishing 8th in the final at an Olympiad may be the best that community ever achieves. It still represents the fact that person was the 8th best in the world at that time, in that place, in that event. Why should that not be celebrated?

        If life is solely about utilitarianism, kill me now. I’d much rather rejoice in the beauty and ability of the human body and the human imagination than forego art or sport to help people live a few years longer when everybody dies anyway. Quality, Mudplugger, not quantity.


      3. But just beware, Windsock. If ‘they’ decided to move the funding from that extremely convenient, yet expensive, London hospital to pay for televising a few failed long-jumpers or to launch annual festivals of modern dance instead, you may find your views of personal life-extension take a somewhat different focus and you’ll quickly find more common cause with all those poor souls on the cataract waiting-list.
        As Nikita K once said when referring to his below-par, but high volume of nuclear missiles, “Quantity has a quality all of its own”.


      4. Sorry Mudplugger – the BBC is funded by the license fee. The NHS is not. Separate, totally.

        And don’t worry – I’ll be the arbiter of my own quality of life – hen it is not up to the standard of what I want at that time, I’ll wave you a big bye bye. With blown kisses too.


  3. I don’t know. I have to leave the class unattended for a few hours and return to find the usual suspects are at it again! See me both in the headmaster’s office at 4.00, Mudplugger Minor and Windsock Major. I’ll be writing to your parents.


    1. But, Sir, we weren’t fighting, honest, just engaging in our usual standard of mature 6th Form debate. We may have differences of opinion on a number of things but, behind all that, we’re pals really who have more in common than our differences. And anyhow, you started it with your particularly provocative post.

      If we promise to kiss and make up, will that keep us both out of detention ? (But no tongues.)
      And please don’t tell Mater Mudplugger, she’s a real bitch when riled and I’m already grounded for a few other offences, to say nothing of the cruel pocket-money sanctions which I’m quite sure breach the Human Rights legislation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s always the same people who spoil it for everybody else, isn’t it – whilst simultaneously providing lively debate! One hour’s detention and that’s yer lot.


      2. No ad hominems – we’re cool. Plus, Sir, you’ll have to spend detention with us, to make sure we don’t get up to mischief. You’ll be bored….


      3. I think you stitched him there, good on ya, Windy. Shared fags behind the bike-sheds at playtime as usual.


  4. While the boys are behind the bike sheds, can I just sneak in to say….
    If I’m forced to watch sport, I’d much prefer rhythmic gymnastics and ice dancing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome behind the bike-sheds any time, in fact some of us would prefer it. Smoking’s optional, you show me yours, I’ll show you mine…….. etc.
      (Just make sure Sir doesn’t catch us – he can be a bit grumpy some days, especially if we won’t let him join in).

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