Is it the BBC, or is it Me? 262

I love sport, and I have been watching the World Athletics Championships. This has left me genuinely uncertain. Has BBC sports coverage always been this harshly, stridently British nationalist, and do I just notice it now as my own sensibility has changed? Or has there genuinely been a shift away from any pretence of impartiality?

Apart from analysis focusing almost entirely on the prospects of the British contender in the sport in question, we have witnessed countless field events where numerous throws and jumps of other contestants are not broadcast at all, in favour of shots of the British athlete in the event warming up, zipping their tracksuit or chatting with their coach. Other competitors’ efforts are only of interest in relation to their potential to affect the position of the British athlete, with the exception of a very few major celebrities.

It is not treated as a sporting event so much as a nationalist propaganda event. I find it repulsive to the extent that I found myself being quite pleased that “Team GB” has so far been pathetic, and each athlete the BBC hypes, proceeds immediately to fall on their arse.

I have now discovered that Eurosport, even with the English commentary, is covering the games in a much more sensible manner.

I noticed at Wimbledon what seems to be a related phenomenon. Support for the underdog appears to have disappeared. The crowd were boorish and completely one-eyed in their support for British players and for celebrities. When Gilles Muller defeated Nadal, some wonderful winning rallies by Muller at key moments were met by something short of polite applause. It was embarrassing to watch.

I do not recognise Brexit Britain as the country in which I was born and raised. The UK has become a nasty and mean-spirited place, and the sooner it is broken up the better.

262 thoughts on “Is it the BBC, or is it Me?

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  • Ba'al Zevul

    I do not recognise Brexit Britain as the country in which I was born and raised.

    Agree without reservation. The individual has been completely subordinated to the market, and the market now determines his attitudes and actions.

    The UK has become a nasty and mean-spirited place, and the sooner it is broken up the better.

    Just a minute – did I hear the consumerist indoctrination talking, there? In my distant youth, it was customary to repair something rather than break it up and buy, buy, buy another. Oh, and may I mention my experience as the only, and, unwisely, open, England supporter in a Highland bar during a televised England-Scotland rugby match? Thought not.

    • Jacomo

      I once watched an England – Scotland rugby match in a pub in Richmond, South West London.

      I was ‘outed’ as Scottish within the first five minutes, and then had to endure boorish ribbing from the drunken crowd as ‘the Jock’ while Scotland got taken to pieces on the TV.

      It’s ok. You are still alive, as am I.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        My own fault, obviously -It’s ok. I later worked behind the same bar for a while with absolutely no problems. Just saying that team prejudice is not an exclusively English, or UK phenomenon.

  • glenn

    The BBC commentators do seem to drool over the Yanks a fair bit too.

    But the concentration on winners has long since been a failing. The cameras only focus on the winners, completely ignoring the runners-up – world class athletes all – crossing the line even a few seconds after the medal winners have completed their run.

    On the longer events, we’ll be treated to shots of the winners changing into tracksuits and so on, instead of watching the others complete their marathon. Only outright winners are worthy of any attention at all. This has been going on for decades.

    • Ba'al Zevul

      The way to sell your global product is to reduce the content to the lowest possible common denominator. See also the Mail Online’s Sidebar of Shame, Macdonald’s, etc, etc. No-one ever went bust by underestimating the intelligence of the public.

      • J

        That’s the way to sell it, sure. But to make it saleable requires only one thing. Vision.

        • Ba'al Zevul

          ‘Vision’ being one of many words beloved of management for its vagueness and applicability to absolutely anything. Ba’al Associates’ mission statement:


          (over picture of someone’s stately home)

          We’re still looking for a font.

  • david

    I love sport too. Doing it, not watching it. What passes as “Sport” in this country is people watching it. That is the Entertainment Industry NOT sport.

    So what other people (I will no longer watch what is caled “Sport” on television) are watching is a hybrid of the Entertainment industry and the Fallands war.

    I would rather watch kids playing football in the park. Or of course take part myself, no matter how poorly.

  • Wolsto

    The cricket still offers commentary where the skills of both sides are fully appreciated. Rugby too, to a lesser extend. I agree that the athletics coverage is horrible, though.

    • Bobm

      Noticeable that the TMS commentators now include women, and that the umpires come from far and wide.
      Good that Joel Wilson’s sonorous voice [Barry White?] is being appreciated, like those of TMS commentators of the past.
      An interview is in order.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    The question:-

    ” Has BBC sports coverage always been this harshly, stridently British nationalist..”

    And the answer is “yes”.

    First hand I can explain.

    As a student at London University I was a sprinter over 100 and 200m. I had a keen interest in sports ( still do) and I particularly love athletics with football and the Premier league running a close second. So, to the answer.

    There was a boxing match I was watching on the BBC ( this was the 1970s) when I was a student. The commentator was elated when the British boxer was ahead in the early rounds. As the match progressed it became obvious that he was going to lose. So ( I kid you not) the British boxer became at a point “the Nigerian”. Similarly, on the BBC in the same 70s decade there was an 800m race and the first lap was the “British” runner glowingly embraced until race and alternative nationality surfaced on the losing second lap.

    It is not just “nationalism”, for at times it is open racism. I surmise that some of this kind of expression is not even consciously stated – for it is so deeply embedded in the psyche of some that it is instinctively racist.

    To be fair – we – British – the world – people in general – have come a long way. Is it perfect? Hell – no! So, it ain’t what it ought to be – but – thank goodness it ain’t all that it used to be.

    One love,

  • Jacomo

    I feel that athletics coverage has long shown the BBC at its absolute worst.

    In the old days, when Team GB was rubbish, they perhaps did spend more time following the actual events (GB athletes far from guaranteed to make it through the early heats).

    Perhaps they have got worse.

    I am a big fan of the BBC but it has a tendency to let the soft, tea and cake jingoism creep in. I suppose they could say that ‘little England’ forms a large part of the audience and they are merely reflecting that.

  • Republicofscotland

    “Has BBC sports coverage always been this harshly, stridently British nationalist, ”

    In a word yes!

    Even more so now, we have Dunkirk, and Churchill movies etc, Passchendaele, and plethora of other feel good about Britain events, all aimed at diverting our attention away from the impending cliff edge that’s fast approaching namely Brexit.

    Every other product in the shops has ruddy great big Union Jack on it-but don’t take my word for it.

  • Ape

    Call it the special (Olympics?) relationship…this has been the norm in the US so long, no one even notices anymore.

  • Bob weir.

    It was the same with the England Lionesses(don’t laugh)at the women’s Euro 17 tournament just finished,England were hot favourites to win the tournament(in their eyes) we were treated to endless clips of them training at high end facilities with interviews of their star players but as usual they got knocked out before the final.The commentators and pundits covering the final between Denmark and Holland kept on about which players played for English clubs repeatedly.To top it all they couldn’t resist giving 1966 a mention.

    • Mark

      Given that we’re ranked 5th in the world, we WERE a favourite to perform well in the Euro, and the fact hat we got to the semi final proved that people were right to regard us as such, I see nothing to laugh about frankly. Let’s not forget Germany, the world’s number one didn’t even make it that far.

      I agree that the punditry and coverage left a lot to be desired (Channel 4 though, not BBC), dwelt a lot on past glories and focused far too much on men – former male players, male commentary etc – and have made those points earlier to Reel Guid.

      Sorry but I believe that women’s football in this country is a great underappreciated sport and that they are worth far more than any of their overpaid male counterparts. So I’m naturally therefore going to defend them

  • reel guid

    Normally the BBC are giving pride of place to the medals table on their sports web pages. They’ve got this one hidden a bit. Something to do with Ethiopa having having won 4 medals to GB’s 1 perhaps?

    What’s even funnier is that five countries including GB&NI are in a tie for fifth place on the table. Guess who’s been put first out of the five? Even though alphabetically I reckon Bahrain and Belguim comes before Great Britain.

    What’s even funnier still is that they also have the medals table from the 2015 World Championships. Two countries finished tied seventh with the exact same number of golds,silvers and bronzes. But Canada is listed by the BBC ahead of Germany courtesy of that alphabet. Great Britain the country whose importance transcends the alphabet!

  • mog

    Did Wimbledon always have the uniformed members of the military stood in doorways and on sidelines?

    This swing started long before Brexit was even thought of as a word. I see it as consequence of permanent war.

    • reel guid

      To be fair, the tradition of armed forces volunteers being stewards during Wimbledon does go back decades. I suppose it was when the club had less money – before lucrative worldwide TV rights – and couldn’t afford to hire enough civilian stewards.

      The use of the British military at the athletics World Championships however is sinister.

  • Sharp Ears

    Crikey! I see they are dragging the athletics out until Saturday. Will there be a royal personage at the closing ceremony? They are bound to have one.

    Not P Harry though. He’s been with the others in the rich list at a Google fest in Sicily and is now in Africa with Ms Markle. Daily Heil articles refer,

    They live in the refurbished Kensington Palace along with the other parasites. The refurb cost us + £4m.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    I posted above that I did not like Carl Lewis – and – here are a few reasons why:-

    Not only is Lewis a nasty piece of work – he is a really nasty piece of work.

    He has insulted Usain Bolt; he lacks any respect for other athletes of great accomplishment; and – truth be told he despises that the limelight no longer shines on him. But – who is he? He has insulted the entire Caribbean for its athletic prowess on the track and said that it was attributable to drugs. Really now. So maybe he can share his secret and reveal what he used and how at the time he masked it. Only problem is that he may not be scientifically up to date.

    As I said – a really nasty piece of work!

  • Loony

    Anyone that likes sport would not be watching the World Athletics Championships – that is an event best suited to students of pharmacy.

    Anyone that likes sport would surely make some observation regarding the refusal of La Liga to accept a check of around $250 million from the Qataris operating under the alias of Paris St Germain.

    Anyone interested in sport would surely have something to say about Sebastian Coe who is apparently paid large amounts of money in return for not reading e-mails and appearing in public to confess his ignorance on all matters in which he is paid to have expertise.

    Anyone interested in sport may have something to say regarding the merits of holding a World Cup in a desert.

    Anyone interested in sport may note that one particular sportsman is being prevented from plying his trade by a British establishment that seems determined to drive this person into a full blown mental collapse – all for the crime of refusing to hold politically correct opinions. Opinions that are entirely disconnected from his proficiency at his trade.

    Anyone interested in sport would have something to say about the English FA seeing no problem with Thaksin Shiniwatra passing their “fit and proper persons” test.

    Why would Sky buy over the counter medicines in England and then courier them to one of their cyclists in France? Why not just buy them in France? Who knows and who cares – it is all about the money. The only interest of the BBC is to obfuscate the truth and ruthlessly pursue its own advertising agenda for the select few.

    Sport is a place where no law can stand.

  • L Barr

    Hear hear! The BBC seem to arrange these sporting events as an excuse to trot out their so-called personalities so that they can justify their extortionate salaries!
    Eurosport provides a much more balanced and informative coverage thankfully.

  • Habbabkuk

    I do not have an especially high opinion of people who get their kicks by watching sport on TV – it would be much better if the watchers got off their backsides and did some sport themselves.

    Readers will recall that I’m a bit of a swimmer myself – and I never watch swimmig contests on TV.

    In fact I wouldn’t watch a swimming competition in person either because I would find it difficult not to leap in and start competing as well !

    Having said that, however, I suppose that age plays a big role in whether you’re a doer or watcher. It’s already been established that the vast majority of commenters on here are middle-aged if not older and so it’s hardly surprising that they would tend to be watchers rather than doers.

  • Clydebuilt

    Many years ago I attended a sporting event being televised by the BBC (Norwich Union series). BBC employee went round handing out small Union Jack flags and U/J big foam hands, to kids.

    False support for the Brittish state organised by its broadcaster.

  • Vercingetorix

    I agree with Craig’s sentiment and many others who have posted. I have one little anecdote that illustrates Craig’s point and in a sport you might reasonably assume was immune from puerile nationalism. I attended the Three Day Eventing at London 2012 in Greenwich (its my wife’s sport – I don’t usually follow it). At the start of the final day, the Show Jumping, a German (I think) competitor came into the arena early in the day to be greeted by a cacophony of boos. Now this didn’t go down well at all with the very familiar plummy tones of Mike Tucker, who reminded the hoi polloi that in this sport – unlike ‘others’ – all competitors are encouraged. A deadly silence fell across the arena for about three seconds before said crowd applauded this sporting ‘intervention’. The hypocrisy of the English middle class cruelly exposed in public by one of their own!

    As a republican I was mildly pleased that a certain young lady’s team only came second whilst the superb Michael Jung secured both individual gold and led his team to a deserved victory – not that the BBC coverage concentrated on that story…..

    • Paul Barbara

      @ Courtenay Barnett August 7, 2017 at 20:05
      Yes, Henri Paul’s father knows his son was murdered, and is not afraid to say so.
      The Judge would not allow him and his wife to have a sample of Henri Paul’s blood to get an independent analysis.

  • Paul Barbara

    @ Sharp Ears August 7, 2017 at 14:44
    ‘…WTF is going on? He (Tony Bliar) is being rehabilitated….’
    Not so much ‘rehabilitated’ as regurgitated!

  • Velofello

    Now c’mon, a Somalian, living in Oregan USA running as a “Brit” is funny. And his family dutifully carrying the Butcher’s Apron to celebrate his win. Regards the “British” desire /quest for sporting success, it is a clutching at the fading imperialist straw thing.

    Regards ladies football, and the Lionesses – now c’mon it’s funny – lionesses – from the Shires. In Scotland we have wildcats, real live native animals. No please ladies football Scotland, don’t.

    I’m a bit of a purist, football for me is about ball control, swerves of body and ball, one touch, positioning, pace. I watched the “Lionesses” and regrettably they have introduced the failings of the men’s game to their sport – grabbing the opponent’s shirt or arm, barging into opponents. I had said to my wife some time back that I enjoyed women’s football due to the lack of the thug mentality, and that a player could speed round an opponent without being battered into the stands. Oh dear, the lionesses.

  • Leonard

    Anyone who has watched sport on Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch or German television will have experienced exactly the same kind of nationalist hype. Not that this excuses it, but I don’t think the BBC or other broadcasters are particularly worse than anyone else. I agree though, it is sad to see.

    Today’s Independent cartoon about Bolt sums it up quite well.

  • Ian Foulds

    Apologies if this has been covered more erudite lay by others but I understood ‘the Rev’ had taken the lady to court as she had made reference to her observation under cover and privilege of Holyrood.

    Further apologies if my supposition is incorrect.

  • Paul Barbara

    Glorifying the ‘Nation’ and ‘Race’ is hardly new: ‘What Happened When Hitler Hosted the Olympics 80 Years Ago’:
    The FA Cup was organised in 1871, just three years after the last public hanging in Britain.
    The Roman ‘Games’ were murderous spectacles, beloved of the ‘sheeple’.
    Sport has long taken over from ‘religion’ as the ‘opium of the people’.
    I don’t watch TV – haven’t for 3 or 4 years – but I am forced to endure it in pubs.
    Football is no longer a sport, which it probably originated as – I have not watched a match in donkeys years which is not marred by deliberate fouls, often unseen or unpunished by the referees.
    Meanwhile, back in the real world, we sell billions of pounds worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, and tweek the Nuclear-armed Russian Bear’s tail.
    I must admit, I preferred the athletics today to the mindless, moronic gyrations of ‘artists’ that came before they switched the channel.
    Absolute rubbish, but it is pumped out so often in pubs. It’s (almost) enough to make me join the Sally Ann.

  • mickc

    Well you shouldn’t be pleased that Team GB is pathetic; that shows the same mean spirit you decry in others.

    It is entirely proper to support the GB team whilst recognising the expertise of others. However neither your attitude or the extreme nationalist one the commentators use are appropriate.

  • My Cocaine

    “Has BBC sports coverage always been this harshly, stridently British nationalist, and do I just notice it now as my own sensibility has changed? Or has there genuinely been a shift away from any pretence of impartiality?”

    No disrespect, Mr Murray, but in 2012, London hosted the Olympic games, and I can only assume you were British ambassador to Planet Neptune at the time, because the coverage was so over the top, so pro-British, it would have shamed Winston Churchill, or Lord Kitchener, or Robert Clive!

  • glenn

    ” The UK has become a nasty and mean-spirited place, and the sooner it is broken up the better.

    Ah – missed that earlier.

    One could say – after the Germans, sorry, I mean of course the EU concluded that busting up on Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain was a good way of making France stay in line by sending them a very pointed message, that the EU itself had become a nasty and mean-spirited place. Et cetera.

    The solution (I’d venture to say again) is down to fundamental reform, not busting it up. But we weren’t given that choice on the ballot paper, were we?

    • Ba'al Zevul

      But we weren’t given that choice on the ballot paper, were we?

      I’d venture to say that a very good reason for leaving is that the EU has not offered the prospect of reform to its democratic electorate as a whole, and is unlikely to do so as presently administered.

      • glenn

        That was more or less my feeling. At the end of the day, did we want to give them a big double-thumbs up and a sloppy grin, or tear the whole thing down? Those were the only choices, at least as far as politicians would understand what the people were saying.

        Yeah, I know – more than half the voters got it wrong and are all racists anyway, simples.

    • Mark Williams

      Perhaps Craig is suggesting that the BBC should be broken up as a necessary precondition to reforming the UK? By this point, it’s pretty clear that there’s not much point reforming it (News, at least)—rotten to the core, too much work for no real benefit. Considering its overt, overbearing and partisan unionism on display during the 2014 referendum; just imagine if Scotland were ‘independent’ today but with the former state broadcaster’s tentacles still firmly embedded in it, as they would be?

  • Karl Kolchak

    The BBC is just catching up with the way American networks cover international sporting events.

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