Media

Why Does the BBC Need Two Commentary Teams At The Same Match?

10 Nov 2011 at 18:52

Whenever I deign to say anything remotely critical about the BBC I am accused of all sorts of things. People say, ah, well if you hate it so much, why do you appear so much on it? As if there was some unspoken compact that in order to be invited onto a BBC show you have to be duly reverential. Well, that may explain why I have never been on This Week or Question Time I suppose (!), but it will never stop me calling it as I see it.

I applaud the BBC for recognising that it has to make cuts, just like any other publicly funded body. Some of the cuts are very painful indeed – those to BBC local radio, for example. Some are misdirected – those to BBC local radio, for example! Others are fully justified. But there is scope for the BBC to go further. It’s too late to revisit the move of BBC Sport and Radio 5 Live to Manchester. It’s happened. But that shouldn’t stop us questioning why Radio 5 Live presenters are ferried backwards and forwards from London to Manchester most days. Of course, it is up to any broadcaster where they base themselves, but surely it is up to them to pay for their travel to their workplace. But I am told that Rachel Burden is the only 5 Live mainstream presenter to make the move to Manchester permanent. A 5 Live insider tells me that one daytime presenter flies up four days out of five. Richard Bacon regales us with his trials and tribulations on the Virgin West Coast line most days. Peter Allen travels up from his home near Cambridge. All this is a great waste of licence fee payers money. [UPDATE: A senior member of the 5 Live management team assures me that presenteers do in fact pay for their own travel].

I discovered another example today. Driving home from doing a book signing I searched my DAB radio in my car [show off – Ed] and found the Reading v West Ham game on BBC Radio London. I then discovered it was also on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. But each station had its own two man commentary team, no doubt with a team of sound engineers too. In addition 5 Live had their own match reporter. I didn’t discover if BBC Radio Berkshire had a third team of commentators but it wouldn’t surprise me. Why in God’s name couldn’t both stations take the same commentary feed? I tweeted about this earlier and while most people agreed with me, some reckoned that the BBC London commentary would be biassed in West Ham’s favour so you had to have an impartial commentary on Sports Extra. Bollocks. Even if the BBC London commentary were biassed (which it isn’t) surely in this day and age we should be able to get single commentary, giving an impartial commentary on all aspects of the game, which can be heard on any of the BBC’s radio outlets. I don’t know how much a BBC football pundit gets paid, or indeed how much a commentator is paid, but I suspect that by having one commentary team at today’s game instead of two there would have been a saving of several thousand pounds. Multiply that over a season and that would pay the salaries of several dozen of the journalists currently being sacked all over BBC local radio.

The lesson here is that however many savings an organisation makes, more can always be found.

UPDATE: Martin Lipton of The Mirror informs me that the BBC sent 12 people to cover the Euro 2012 draw in Kiev last week.

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