By Mike Small
While the Scottish media goes into a froth and a frenzy of Old Firm (sic) coverage before the League Cup semi-final – coverage which, apart from the rest of license-fee payers I’d imagine the fans of Aberdeen and Dundee United should be pretty pissed off about – down south a different media story emerged. The ‘BBC’ has paid £204m on our behalf to renew the rights for three more years of Match of the Day.
Gary Lineker – on £2 million a year in 2013 – is joined each week by regular pundits Alan Shearer, Robbie Savage, Danny Murphy and Phil Neville, with guest appearances from Rio Ferdinand and Ruud Gullit. If Alan Hansen’s reputed £50,000 a show salary is matched by just four of these guys – in thirty broadcasts we’d have spent a whopping £6 million just in the guys with the matching shirts and stubble to argue over the offside ruke.
The coverage includes not just the Premiership but the Championship as well. Walk into any bar in Scotland and beaming out will be coverage of Shrewsbury versus Cambridge or an endless stream of minor teams elevated by the state broadcaster. It’s wall to wall surround-sound English football.
BBC director general Tony Hall said:
“Sport matters. It brings the nation together. It can break hearts and raise spirits. And because it matters to the public, it also matters to the BBC.”
Clearly Scottish football doesn’t, not even proportionately.
It’s unclear which nation is being brought together by this over-paid self-congratulatory ladfest, but it’s certainly not the one I live in.
It’s rumoured that one episode of MOTD costs more than the entire annual budget of BBC Sport Scotland. Perhaps now that the promised Smith Commission is to allow ‘greater scrutiny and control’ over broadcasting issues we can find out how much is put into Scottish football.
We are told that the increased powers for Holyrood will mean:
- a formal consultative role for the Scottish government and the Scottish Parliament in the process of reviewing the BBC’s Charter.
- The BBC will lay its annual report and accounts before the Scottish Parliament and submit reports to, and appear before, committees of the Scottish Parliament in relation to matters relating to Scotland in the same way as it does in the UK Parliament.
So let’s find out just how much our national sport matters to the BBC. I suspect ‘not very much’ will be the answer. Any BBC whistleblowers want to drop us a line with the numbers?
Nobody would doubt that the English game is massive, of far higher quality, with a bigger audience, both in the UK and abroad, and the game is awash with money. By contrast ours is a badly-run shambles with little money and without even an official sponsor for our top league.
That’s a disgrace, but all the more reason why we deserve decent coverage from our public broadcaster, and openness about the amount of funding put it. This is a circular argument. Because our game is so badly televised it is to the detriment of the search for a commercial sponsor.
What would more investment bring? For starters we should expect:
- Multi-camera coverage including light-weight mobile cameras
- Proper commentating and match analysis
- High profile and high quality broadcasting
The ‘national’ sports output of the BBC is hugely focused around one nation. The issue here is not just about giving Scotland and other nations in the UK fair coverage and investment, it’s also about the massive overpay of these pundits and the wider issue of coverage of other sports.