SportTech UK: Mosey highlights breadth of BBC Olympic role and importance of impartiality
With less than four months to go till the start of the Olympics, the BBC’s Director of London 2012, Roger Mosey, took to the stage at SVG Europe’s SportTech UK conference to talk about the Corporation’s coverage. His speech highlighted the multiple roles that major public service broadcasters have to play in the modern age, listing five core objectives for the BBC of which sports broadcasting was only a facet.
“When we set out on our Olympic journey, we set ourselves a five point plan,” he said. “The first objective lay in bringing the UK together around the extraordinary series of events in 2012 from the first Diamond Jubilee since 1897, through the Cultural Olympiad, the torch relay, and onto the Games themselves. Objective number two was about delivering brilliant sports coverage, and with Beijing setting the standard we knew that that was going to be a big challenge. Thirdly, we wanted to deliver wide ranging expert news coverage of the year, globally, nationally and locally. Objective four was about driving digital. And the fifth, and in some ways the most important point, was about legacy: about making sure that it wasn’t just about 2012 but that there was an impact for the creative and sporting industries beyond just the games themselves.”
One way or another, the Olympics is going to dominate the Corporation’s Summer output. Mosey talked of the BBC ‘amplifying’ the sports story across its entire output, from music (The Proms for classical, the Radio One Hackney Weekend for rock and pop) through to reality shows with an Olympic/Paralympic series of The Great British Menu, period drama (this is the BBC after all) and comedy, with an Olympic-themed edition of Absolutely Fabulous.
His main thrust though was regarding news. Perhaps with a recent nod to a Telegraph story that BSkyB had removed a story critical of Formula One from its website , and with the BBC always under painfully close scrutiny from the rest of the British media, he was at pains to point out that the Corporation will remain unbiased. It might be covering the Olympics, but if the Olympics itself becomes the story – for whatever reason – the Corporation’s news teams will be unflinching.
As he pointed out, it has already established a track record in the field too; airing a documentary in the Panorama strand that offered a ‘deeply unflattering’ portrait of the IOC in the same week of the crucial vote on the 2012 games. “It is to the credit of those nations voting in Singapore that it didn’t have an influence on the vote, nor should it have done,” he said. “A robust media is, in our view, a prerequisite for a successful games and decision makers should be held accountable.
“As a public service broadcaster we support the success of the people of Britain and the Olympics,” he continued. “Yes, we would like the games to turn out well, however it is vital to the success of our audience’s trust in us that we tell the London Games story fairly and impartially. Whether it is a story of glorious weather and home success, or transport chaos, drought and disorganisation the BBC will be independent in its coverage. We will never let our partnerships dictate our journalism. The IOC and LOCOG know there will be tough questions asked alongside the coverage of what we hope will be a brilliant event, and it’s worth underlining that this is not automatic in the modern media world.
“We want to show the advantages of universal access alongside the benefits of an independent media.”