BBC Olympics coverage: this is what you thought

Last week we asked you for your opinions on the BBC Olympics coverage. This is what you said. 

Lydia Graystone
15 August 2012

Last week, ourBeeb posted an entry asking you to give us your thoughts on the BBC’s coverage of the Olympics. Since then we have received 46 comments; an extremely positive number of responses. We’ve very thankful that you shared your views with us – it’s important that you have your say, because after all, it’s your Beeb!

We have summarised the opinions you gave us previously. By and large, you focused on four broad categories:

The Technical Side

Many of you enjoyed the BBC’s 25 channel viewing platform, enabling you to watch any sport you wanted.

Maaaat said: ‘The BBC have done a fantastic job, truly amazing. It’s just been fab. To be able to watch every sport 24/7 live was brilliant. Also the mobile app was top class!’

However, some of you voiced complaints about the execution of the channels, stating that for certain sports, commentary – and sometimes even coverage – was unavailable, so it was unclear what was happening.

William Blakes Ghost said: ‘The commentary on [the 25 dedicated] channels was sporadic, had little production, and often had no continuity. You could never be certain if you were going to get commentary and often hadn’t a clue what was happening because there were extended periods of no commentary or commentary abruptly commenced or stopped ... There was no coverage of the shooting other than that provided on BBC 1 or 3 (when we were up for a medal).’

We were also informed that the coverage was particularly limited for people watching Freeview channels.

alw said: ‘Coverage on the Freeview channels (7 and 301) seems to be limited largely to interminable hockey/football/basketball/volleyball matches ... Channel 302 (another Freeview channel) doesn’t seem to be used at all during the day. At one point we were treated to GB’s Rhythmic Gymnastics entry performing her routine and then told we could see how she got on on Olympics 12 – a Sky channel. Thanks BBC!’

Other concerns about the coverage included ‘too complicated graphics’ according to rob. mikefitzgerald ‘thought the Highlights show was generally poor ... [with] poor format and production’. However, Dolly urged us to keep things in perspective and ‘compare [the BBC’s coverage] with delayed transmissions in the USA.’

Commentary and expertise

There was some satisfaction with the presenters and commentators.

happy home spectator was largely impressed, saying: ‘There is no doubt that Clare Balding is an exceptional broadcaster. Others leave a lot to be desired, BUT most of them, we must remember, are not doing their ‘normal’ (usual) job and I suppose we have to be grateful we have so many who can turn their hand to such a very special occasion.’

Many of you were less impressed, particularly with the lack of knowledge shown by the commentators.

Abysmally Unimpressed said: ‘The commentary on the women’s trampolining final was done by a pair of gymnasts. They clearly knew nothing whatsoever about the sport, their mistakes including move names, basic deductions ... [they] had absolutely nothing to say other than make random guesses as to whether a routine was good or bad.’

Furthermore, Zeeblebum reported ‘plenty of sexism and gender bias, for example “So that’s the men, now for the girls”; “How do you manage to combine all the training with being a wife and mother?”; 400m hurdles is known as the “man-killer”; and there’s not much more to say about the coverage of women’s beach volleyball that hasn’t already been said.’

We received several complaints about Gary Lineker; unclebunkle said he was ‘bland’ and William Blakes Ghost said he was ‘out of his depth’. However, you had nothing but praise for other commentators; Alun Wyn Bevan said: ‘Fantastic all round coverage – Mishal, Gabby and Clare excelled; Ian Thorpe and Michael Johnson so knowledgeable and informative. Masterful VTs from Eddie Butler. Praise also for all the BBC background staff – outstanding contributions.’

Patriotism and Britishness

Many of you pointed out a tendency to place far greater importance on British athletes than those of other nationalities.

CM said: ‘I do think, for an international broadcasting corporation, the coverage was incredibly biased towards British interest. USA won 46 golds and China 48 – I did not see a single medal ceremony or interview with any of these winners ... Slightly more impartiality would have been much more professional, and would have added to my enjoyment. While it is important to inspire the young to partake in sports, it is also important to foster respect for the achievements of other countries.’

Jenna agreed, saying there was ‘no coverage given at all to events with no British athletes, and constant repeated highlights of British gold medal wins. This is supposed to be journalism. Nothing wrong with a little patriotism, but it’s pretty embarrassing to see such brazen displays of bias within what should be a non-biased media outlet.’

On the other hand, StevieB embraced the patriotism, saying ‘Why not? I can’t see the Americans, Australians and Chinese dishing out tons of praise on other nations. In the case of NBC, if there isn't an American athlete in the event they don’t even bother to show it. Well done BBC I say!’

Other BBC Output

The final category that many of you took issue with was the general dearth of BBC programming that wasn’t related to the Olympics.

BC wrote: ‘I have enjoyed the coverage. The problem arises when you try to get away from it. Why, when BBC 1 has been exclusively dedicated to the Games, does News 24 have to be dominated by it too? Apart from the boredom factor, this also means that the people who should be keeping us informed about the activities of our lords and masters have effectively been asleep on watch. I wonder how many corporate and government press releases have been slipped through under the radar during this no-news fest.’

NZ listener complained about ‘the way in which reports from the Olympic Games have captured so much of the time allotted to news on the BBC World Service.’ Adrian Bailey was of a similar opinion, saying that ‘the BBC could have, should have, had a channel for conventional news; indeed, towards the latter part of the Games, news reverted to the format of hard news first and sport second.’

We thank you very much for sharing your views with us; after all, the mission of ourBeeb is to establish an open, public debate about the BBC. We invite you to comment again; this time on a figure which has recently been circulating on Twitter.

Stephen Curran recently tweeted that the BBC coverage cost us £5.58 per person, a tweet that at time of writing has seen an astonishing 3,413 retweets. 

Mr Curran replied to our inquiry that he'd heard this from a producer he knows at BBC Sport, but "the figure is in no way official". It's pretty great PR for the BBC, either way - and certainly telling that so many Twitter users have leapt on it.

We've asked BBC London 2012 Director Roger Mosey whether this is an accurate figure, but have received no reply - feel free to do the same. If the figure is correct, do you think it was a fair and reasonable price to pay for the coverage? 

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