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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  • Highlander

    Sorry Craig…’ve just noticed? In 1966 as a ten year old, I supported and wanted to watch English participation in the world cup. Before the finales, I had decided never again support England in any competition. So bad was the bigorty I had to listen to, by commentators. Aye…. never again!

    • Tony_Opmoc

      I don’t think I have ever met a Scottish man who supported an English football team.. In my experience all Scottish football supporters wanted any other country to beat England especially Germany.

      • Xavi

        As PM, Gordon Brown told the Daily Mail that his favourite sporting moment was Gazza’s goal for England against Scotland at Euro 96; an exemplar of the exhausted triangualtion at the fag-end of the New Labour years.

  • FranzB

    The BBC has got to cut £750 million off its budget because it’s due to start funding over 75s licence fees itself. I imagine this will mean less sport on the BBC. Who knows, if Netflix and Amazon start bidding for Premier League rights, the BBC might find itself unable to pay for PL rights. I listen to cricket and football on the radio and don’t notice any particular chauvinism, but if you’ve got a Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara at the crease, or a Pele or a Messi on the ball, chauvinism seems inappropriate.

    “The UK has become a nasty and mean-spirited place, ….”

    I suppose a key event was the pogroms launched against Catholics in N. Ireland by the B specials, which arose out of their fight for civil rights. This lead to the British army going into Belfast in August 1969, internment, Bloody Sunday, civil war, Birmingham pub bombings and the arrest and conviction of the Birmingham Six. I’d put another key event as the strong arming of the Callaghan / Healey government into accepting an IMF loan by the IMF and the Treasury. A condition was cuts to social provision which led to conflict with the trade unions and election of Thatcher. She was backed by the Sun. The Times and Sunday Times were haned to Murdoch in 1981. Kelvin McKenzie became editor of the Sun in 1981, etc, etc. – riots, unemployment, Falklands war, Miners Strike. The good old days.

    “…..and the sooner it is broken up the better.”

    I’d agree with that. Whenever Sturgeon is ready she should call an election for the Scottish Parliament with Scottish independence as a policy. If the SNP ( + Greens) win, she should declare Scotland an independent country. Forget the referendum.

  • John Sharp

    It’s not you. And it’s not just the BBC. Bob Weir already made a comment on the Netherlands – Denmark women’s football final on Channel 4 last night. I counted 53 references to English football in this programme. Usually these were brief (.. plays for Liverpool, . . will sign for Chelsea next year, etc.). However, in the preamble to the kick-off, we got roughly a 2-minute build up for the Dutch team, a 1-minute interview with the Danish coach, and, for balance, a 7-minute review of the England women’s team, with some more about them in the wind-up as well.

    And this is not untypical. In an earlier round of this competition, I watched a couple of matches (not involving England) – one with Channel 4 commentators and one on Eurosport – which yielded 18 and 20+ references to English football. I watch quite a few Bundesliga A games on BT Sport; it’s quite usual that their commentators will also give you anything up to twenty references to English football in one game; if any player previously had an English club, we’ll be sure to hear; if a player is having a promising season, there’s is quite likely to be a bit of speculation as to whether or not he could be good enough to get a move to the (we are to understand, more important class of football in the) Premiership. In the UEFA men’s football finals in 2016, the Premiership referencing was also in good flow; in some matches the commentators might have given you the impression that the UEFA competition itself was of secondary importance to its role in putting players on display for Premiership managers to cast their eyes over their talents.

    And it’s not new. I think that the starting point for my petty and pathetic tendency to count spurious references was Argentina’s opening game in the 1978 opening World Cup game against Hungary (i.e. with no significant involvement by England, you might think, since they were not even represented in the finals). Somewhat taken aback by John Motson’s frequent England references at the start, I carried on counting and reached 17 by the end of the first half.

    Overall, when this stuff is overdone, it serves to diminish the players and the game that we are watching. The commentators give us the imppresssion that they’ll put up with telling us about this game, but really, they know that what we want to hear about is the Premiership,or the England international team.

  • Kimpatsu

    Wherever America goes, Britain follows, and American sports coverage has always been stridently jingoistic. During the cold war, if the USSR won anything, American commentators would right out accuse them off cheating and doping on-air. Britain is a little USA.

    • Kempe

      ” During the cold war, if the USSR won anything, American commentators would right out accuse them off cheating and doping on-air. ”

      Not without good reason in many cases. Some eastern bloc female athletes were pumped full of so much steroids they underwent a sex change.

  • nevermind

    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.

    Very wise words, the BBC is its own worst enemy, always bigging up the party in power as well as thumping that tub, exactly why I proffered the idea of sharing the Olympics and the existing facilities in France when we got the last Olympic bid. Tub thumping, the privilege of the organisers and the and the establishment types, such as Lord Coe, who does not like drugs cheats to try again after being punished, redeem themselves and win, would increasingly be a thing of the past.
    I agree to a certain extent with John Sharps depiction of English football abroad, it could be based on the false notion that ‘football was invented in England’, which is debatable, as the Chinese kicked balls about before Christ was born, when we were still marvelling at intricate metal working by the Celts.

    Cuju, as it is still known today, outlawed using any other part of your body, but your feet, there were no goals and individuals players got scored on how they played.

    Coverage of football in this country is carried out by men for men, the last bastion of unrelenting male machismo….there’s no gay in this village, we know, trust us…..

  • Dave

    I’m a patriot not a flag waver, or a stiff upper rather than wobbly lip, but no harm in getting excitable on appropriate occasions. But if you think the coverage is excitable/over the top all the time, that’s a symptom of the immigration you support, because the coverage is about promoting the new British as great Britons.

  • bjsalba

    I used to listen to R4 to check out what propaganda they were pushing. Recently it has become so bad that it was making me ill to listen, so I have stopped altogether.

  • Shatnersrug

    No it changed as soon as the Tories rearranged the BBC, but it became more strident after we did so well at the 2012 Olympics combined with Froomes success in the TdF.

    But this is what happens isn’t it? Labour governments invest in the country, we all become a bit too proud. Then the Tories get in and start cutting everything but trade on the successes of the UK as the labour investment comes to fruition.

    We are a small collection of countries that all suffer from delusions of grandeur/inferiority complexes. The BBC just amplifies it.

  • Rougvie1983

    In my opinion the sports coverage has definitely got worse over the last few years. I spent a bit of time living abroad so had a clean break from UK media in general for around 4 years. When I came back, it genuinely shocked me in how much it had changed. There are a number of little things that I noticed – the increased military presence (which I used to see in US sports events, often at the medal ceremony, and wonder, what are those soldiers doing there?) – the incredible amount of bias and the lack of any attempt to be impartial (which I believe the all broadcasters have a duty to be, please correct me if this is wrong) – the jokey and, frankly, unprofessional attitude and comments of many of its “reporters” (I think the BBC are by far the worst at this). I abhor the BBC and avoid it as much as I can, but my love of sport means I occasionally watch it (usually with the sound muted).

    You can always expect a degree of bias in coverage and commentary from any nation towards its own athletes, and I think the UK has never been that much different from others on this score, but I think the point Craig was making was, has it got a lot worse? And in my view, without the luxury of statistics or any objective measure, I feel that it has got MUCH worse in the way he describes.

    Although I am a bit embarrassed to say it, I feel the same way as Craig (when he referred to being pleased that TM GB was crap so far) when it comes to the England football team – I want them to fail because I want to see the commentators squirm after their hearing their sneering, ill-informed, and arrogant disdain towards any opposition team, or towards players not playing in the self-styled “Greatest League in the World” (a total joke by the way – I played football at a high level and most of the teams in the league are WAY below the sum of their expensively-assembled parts).

    I guess my final observation would be, in a wider context, that there seems to be a general dumbing-down taking place across society, where ignorance is celebrated (football pundits are terrible for this, often unable to even pronounce the names of players, never mind know anything about their skills or style of play), and this is reflected in sports coverage as well. Maybe we are indeed “sick of experts” – but if you think about that phrase, what does it say about our society as a whole?

    • Shatnersrug

      Well in your absence David Cameron Handed the BBC to ex Murdoch people. I think that’s all you need to know really. They’ve made it a hated institution ready for its privatisation I suppose a bit like the NHS

  • Aubrey

    Both! It is you! You just noticed this! And you noticed because they change a bit they way it works. Expecting more and fast change including the new era!

  • Martin Davidson

    I am reminded of a spoof Private Eye news-item from the 1960s which went something like: “Three atom bombs exploded over New York City – no Britons were reported hurt.”

    • Ba'al Zevul

      The original version is (allegedly) from the Press and Journal*: “Titanic Sinks: Aberdeen Man Lost”

  • Douglas Gregory

    This all sounds very familiar for someone who has lived in Australia for nearly 20 years! The Aussies have been doing this for decades; coverage of major sporting events heavily skewed towards how Australians do. Coverage of the finals of the hurdles being cut just before the race to watch an Aussie in 42nd place in the marathon etc etc. You sometimes wonder if the person in charge of programming is a 10 year old.

    I had always reasoned that this was because sport was such a strong identifier for the people here – alongside WW1 & 2 sporting success being significant points in the nations history and an important aspect of the national psyche.

    It should be remembered that Australia professionalised its sport 2 decades before the UK with its Institute of Sport – a system that has been replicated by the UK leading up to the London Olympics. This Australian policy was designed to make Australian sporting achievement a matter of national pride. The problem is can verge on triumphalism when it’s going very well for them.

    Whilst I recognise much of what you write I don’t subscribe to some views here that it is propaganda per se. What you are seeing is a confluence of many things: the professionalism of sport (and therefore a reduction of ‘sportsmanship’) which promotes winning over participation, the increasing popularity of watching sport as entertainment and no doubt with some British superiority thrown in.

    It’s not particularly entertaining that’s for sure but as my wife points out ‘sport appeals to the latent tribalism in people’.

  • Republicofscotland

    Brexiteers exposed on the amount of money Britain pays into the EU.

    Meanwhile almost half of baby units in England had to turn away pregnant women last year, because they couldn’t cope, a sharp on the previous years.

    • Sharp Ears

      And before one of our friends say there is a surge in the birth rate because of immigration, here are the stats.

      Number of live births in the United Kingdom, 2012 to 2015.

      2015 – 777,165
      2014 – 776,352
      2013 – 778,803
      2012 – 812,970

      The total number of projected births in the UK is 791,000 for 2016-17.


      • Sharp Ears

        ‘Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “These findings show the devastating impact which Tory underfunding is having for mothers and children across the country.

        “The uncertainty for so many women just when they need the NHS most is unthinkable.”

        Pregnant woman and midwifeImage copyright PA
        Sean O’Sullivan, from the Royal College of Midwives, said the figures highlighted the pressures on maternity services in England, where there was a shortage of 3,500 full-time midwives.

        “If units are regularly and persistently having to close their doors, it suggests there is an underlying problem around capacity and staffing levels that needs immediate attention.”

        He also said it was upsetting and distressing for women to be diverted to other hospitals when they were in labour.

        National Childbirth Trust senior policy adviser Elizabeth Duff said it was “appalling” that pregnant women “are pushed from pillar to post in the throes of labour”.

        “New maternity policy in England stresses the need for locally based services which must have enough midwives so that women are not turned away in labour,” she said.#

        Maternity wards closed 382 times last year in England

        The BBC’s reporting of health matters by Hugh Pym, Nick Triggle and others is excellent.

        • Republicofscotland

          Good links and info Sharp Ears, it’s a bloody shame what’s happening to the NHS south of the border.

  • David McCann

    “The UK has become a nasty and mean-spirited place, and the sooner it is broken up the better.”
    Got it in one Craig!

  • Normski

    As a former athlete and athletics fan of 40+ years – I’d say BBC coverage is now noticebaly more partisan. The days of tuning in to watch an event for the sake of it (regardless of who is competing in it) are long gone. To be fair though, you’ll probably find it is the same in most countries. It does, however, serve to highlight further that the BBC’s claims to provide quality or “highbrow” output or that they are impartial are now just a pretence.

    • Shatnersrug

      Hasn’t sport changed like that in general now. Everything has to have ever inch of value extracted from it so it’s no good just having easy going things. Even the Darts has gone high tech in Vegas.

  • Sharp Ears

    Please distribute and publicize as widely as possible.
    Scottish Friends of Palestine condemns the presence of the Israeli government sponsored Shalom Festival at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Dismay is expressed that Scotland’s leading politicians should express their support for Israel’s cultural “bridge building” efforts. Such crass pandering to Israel’s apologists not only defies the imagination but defines their culpability.

    In a hard hitting statement Scottish Friends of Palestine stated that building cultural bridges requires more than word laundering.

    “Do Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale and fellow travellers have any understanding of the nature of this bridge and the barrier it represents to Palestinian aspiration? In 2016, the once in a lifetime opportunity given to the 15 year old Gazan musicians, Raslan Ashour (Trumpet) and Sofiya Radwan (Violin), to travel to Scotland and participate in the UK tour of the Palestine Youth Orchestra was cruelly dashed when Israel denied them the right to leave Gaza because they had “insufficient reason to travel.”

    Continue reading

    • Republicofscotland

      Again Sharp Ears another good find.

      Sturgeon et al neec to stand up and add their voices to the cause. There should be no Israeli acts at the festival.

      The idea is to normalise the position, even Wonder Woman, is a ex-IDF soldier.

  • Sharp Ears

    Troughers are everywhere these days.

    Niels de Vos has been commenting on the outbreak of illness. He is the CEO of UK Athletics.

    UK Athletics chief executive’s £90,000 pay raise sparks fury
    6 January 2014

    ‘At a time when coaches across Britain are receiving cuts in funding, UK Athletics has been strongly criticised after it was revealed that chief executive Niels de Vos received a 55 per cent pay increase during 2012.

    De Vos, who has been in the role since 2007, received a £90,000 bonus in his salary for the 2012-2013 tax year to take his total salary to £254,994 in comparison with £164,326 the previous year.

    This came in the same year a number of coaches were made redundant as UK Athletics moved to centralise its coaching support at the National Performance Institute at Loughborough, while funds have also declined for volunteer coaches.’

    More since then? Probably.

    His Linked In biog.

  • Brianfujisan

    Surrounded by Football, and party people.. Sport and concerts..So be the Blind.. Music is hardly even Life anymore.. Manufactured Pop..manufactured news.

    I hope some see this before it gets deleted

    From medai lens

    Dear David,
    ‘1. UNICEF’s child mortality research and its publication in 1999 was a remarkable achievement given the circumstances in which Iraq and the UN system found themselves in the late 1990s. Saddam Hussein’s government had become highly suspicious of “outsiders” including UN entities. UNSCOM/UNMOVIC had been too often shields behind which hard core intelligence and deception were integral parts of the disarmament of Iraq.
    ‘2. This is not the place for extended details. They are available in ample supply. Even the so-called humanitarian entities of the UN were not spared of justified Iraqi suspicion. In 2016, the University of California Press published a large volume with the title: “Land of the Blue Helmets – The United Nations and the Arab World”. It includes a chapter of mine on “Iraq under sanctions” and refers inter alia to the fake news strategies of the US & UK governments.
    ‘3. On the UN side in Baghdad, we were largely helpless in dealing with these well-orchestrated public image shaping acts of manipulation. One such “product” was a publication of the US State Department called “Saddam Hussein’s Iraq” (Sept.1999). When my colleagues from WHO, WFP, UNESCO, FAO, UNICEF, UNDP and I had read this official US document, we were speechless as it contained so much contrived and false information.

  • John Goss

    At the weekend 150 cyclists cycled from Liverpool to Manchester, the Manchester to Bradford, then Bradford to Sheffield on behalf of Palestinian children. Needless to say the BBC did not cover it. Somebody with a video camera caught a few seconds of me (white top) doing circles round the group trying to keep warm in Bradford waiting for the majority to arrive for the send off.

    It was not major sport but after doing Saddleworth Moor there was a ten mile climb up to Marsden Moor and some steep hills on the first half of the Sheffield stage. That the BBC did not send a crew might be understandable considering its Zjonist agenda. What was even more despicable was that the organiser in Palestine, Dr Mona Qasim El-Farra was again refused permission to leave Gaza to attend this year’s Big Ride. She responded by organising a solidarity ride in Gaza! Money has been raised over the last three years to help buy sports equipment for Gaza’s impoverished children. I have little doubt that some of the bikes these children are riding were funded by the project.

    I am not being as pushy this year because some contributed last year but if anyone chooses to make a contribution they can do so here.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    This is interesting, though I don’t necessarily believe all of it, because Seymour Hersh has “form” as indicated in this comment.

    “Hersh publishes a part truth, and by its incompleteness, distracts from the larger truth. This is what he has done going back to his My Lai story which focused on a single village, whereas My Lai style operations were in fact standard operating procedure. He did the same with the Osama bin Laden assassination and the Syria sarin gas story.”

    I suspect that Craig Murray has a more accurate view. However, this is well worth reading. Does Seymour Hersh actually speak like that on the phone? Apparently he denied it, and then someone leaked the audio.


  • Velofello

    When watching sport on TV I turn the sound off. Truly, I do. I don’t need some has-been to tell me, a has- been, what I can see on screen.And I never listen to the half-time analysis by the has-beens.

  • K Crosby

    Perhaps you’ve forgotten the difference between TradBBC, an establishment stooge and COMbbc, Thatchler’s regime stooge? Thatchler murdered TradBBC in the late 80s and replaced it with a commercial sumulacrum.

  • Az

    I reckon there’s a background level of default British nationalism on the TV and sport and what-not, and it’s high. Over time it varies a little – right now it’s up a notch. There’s a tendency of the English British to lean on militaristic terminology, and war glorification. Great national pride is stirred by military pride, presumably because there’s nothing else.

    One that had me aghast, although it was England rather than TeamGB, was in Euro 2012 when England played France in Ukraine, the excruciating, really-unpleasant-to-Scottish-ears tone of Clive Tyldesley piped up:

    “First it was Agincourt, then we had Waterloo, and now Donetsk”. Yuk.

  • Dave

    Another explanation is it helps sell, or neuters criticism of the multi-millions spent on the Olympics.

  • J

    As people begin to talk about Israel again, a new round of bombing begins in Gaza tonight. Interesting to see how much investigative journalism happens within the MSM.

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