“Does the Ten O’Clock News do enough sport? Should we do all the main football results? Should we show match action come what may?”
So asks Craig Oliver, editor of the BBC’s flagship daily news bulletin, in his latest blog entry.
These questions have been running through my mind recently. The audience feedback we get when we do sport on the Ten is almost universally negative. At a recent major focus group people seemed to be suggesting that they expected sport on local, but not national, news.
Is this view of the world right – or are sports fans more shy and retiring than we might have thought?
There is more than a hint of Oliver using this blog as a sort of online focus group, presumably taking any responses to mould his programme’s coverage.
But here’s a question for Oliver: when is his programme, or any BBC news programme for that matter, ever going to actually break a sports news story?
Television news has never known how to handle sports news, rather than simply use its oh-so-coy “look away now” scores, sending its so-called “sports correspondents” off on hoolie watch at football tournaments or standing them outside a stadium to parrot the stories that they had read in the back pages of that day’s newspapers.
Yet despite the deep cut-backs ongoing at BBC and ITN, both news suppliers have long had better resources and better access than most newspapers when it comes to the potential to deliver real sports news.
This is not a call for more agent provocateur set-ups, in the style of the recent Panorama, which rather than unearthing any real evidence of wrong-doing, instead set out to create the circumstances that provide suitably racy images for television – as if an admission that good, solid journalism with real old-fashioned, evidence, is not good enough for a TV audience.
“Proper journalism” is, for instance, the sort of work which Garry Richardson, who actually works for the BBC, carries out each week on his excellent Radio 5 programme Sportsweek, with interviews and investigations that go well beyond other people’s headlines, and instead has others following up his stories.
So then, Mr Oliver, how about some real sports news?
For some recent US research on the decline of what the Americans call “the sportscast”, click here