MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: BBC’s attempts to capture sport just really isn’t cricket

Let me first make it clear that I hate cricket. It is something that I studiously avoid, whether it’s being broadcast or written about in the paper. For the first time in my life, I read an article last week which captured my attention and whose content was partly to do with cricket.

Let me first make it clear that I hate cricket. It is something

that I studiously avoid, whether it’s being broadcast or written about

in the paper. For the first time in my life, I read an article last week

which captured my attention and whose content was partly to do with

cricket.



What got my attention was the pains that the BBC and its head honcho,

Greg Dyke, were going to in order to capture the sport of flannelled

fools.



It is a lesson in how seriously Dyke takes sport and a sign of the

lengths that the public broadcaster will go to in order to capture its

audiences.



Dyke rolled out the big swinging dicks recently in front of the England

and Wales Cricket Board to argue that the BBC should retain the rights

to air live test matches on Radio 4 for the next five years. While

Kelvin MacKenzie of TalkSPORT offered the ECB pounds 7.5 million to

replenish its funds, the BBC is thought to have pushed forward

substantially less in monetary terms but plugged its abil-ity to reach

mass audiences as the key to securing the deal.



It sounds like Dyke did a first-class marketing job, arguing that the

corporation had years of expertise in broadcasting the sport and was

committed to spreading the cult of cricket through its national and

local stations.



Vintage commentary was dug out from the BBC’s library, and examples of

its coverage during last year’s Cricket World Cup were paraded in front

of the board.



Needless to say, the decision has driven MacKenzie to apoplexy. He

issued a statement shortly afterwards, denouncing the move as ’a

disgrace’ and declaring that it will be used as further evidence of why

the Competition Commission should see the BBC broken up.



Unfortunately, his reference to ’Lord McLaurin, who earned his peerage

by selling brussels sprouts’ and decided against giving the rights to

TalkSPORT undermined a potentially serious argument.



While the industry is looking with increasing unease at the way in which

the BBC aggressively pursues audiences and has called for a

re-evaluation of its public sector broadcast responsibilities, Dyke is

aware of the crucial role sporting events play in the programming

line-up. So much so, that there was talk he was looking to appoint a

whizz to help win back lost sporting rights.



It will be fascinating to see how the BBC tries to hold on to Match of

the Day when the Premier League television rights battle begins. But if

this cricket business is anything to go by, the public broadcaster will

do anything it can to hold on to a valuable audience tool and schmooze

the army of potential commercial bidders.



The marketing spin that the BBC put forward for cricket denotes a

broadcaster becoming increasingly slick in its efforts to consolidate

its position in the TV marketplace.



anna.griffiths@haynet.com.



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