The politics of coverage

Matt Seaton writes in today’s Guardian about his excitement at the coverage of the Tour of Britain (ToB) this week. I’m as excited as anyone by it and will be going down on Sunday armed with my microphone and camera to try and grab what I can. Matt’s article mentions the coverage being given by the BBC:,,1860698,00.html

Now I’m slightly more cynical about this coverage than Matt. A few months ago I pitched a package on David Millar’s return to competitive cycling to Grandstand and had it knocked back, now they’re devoting a two hour slot to the Tour of Britain this Sunday.

In my view, the BBC has never engaged properly with cycling as a sport at a level above “out of a duty to do so”. So why the sudden flourish for this event when they’ve been content to do the bare minimum of coverage for the sport previously?

Politics for one thing. Given that the BBC is a seemingly integral part of the London 2012 Olympic project it needs to be seen to be involved with British sport. After all there’s a GB Cycling team riding in the ToB so they can flag up a few rising stars. Then there’s the issue of co-operating with Transport for London and the Local Authorities as part of the long march towards the Olympics.

As I have already said, I am glad to see the sport getting some decent coverage but part of me wonders if it’s only a passing fad until the Olympics pass. There’s no evidence of a longer-term commitment to the sport from broadcasters of the level and expertise that Channel 4 used to bring to the sport in the 1980s, nor even the much diminished ITV coverage of the Tour de France.

Yes, the BBC has covered track events in the past but this has almost always been in the context of a major event where Great Britain looks likely to win a medal, a policy which seems to be the norm when it comes to “minority sports”.

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