BBC bias? Let them bang the drum for the Brit awards

We are not the only na­tion to favour our own, so let the Beeb cheer, writes Alan Ty­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - RIO 2016 -

Cheer­lead­ers? Or jour­nal­ists? The BBC has an Olympic cy­cle of its very own with this de­bate, and Rio 2016 once again sees its crit­ics wheel out the fa­mil­iar com­plaints that cov­er­age is too shrill, too chummy, too ob­sessed with will­ing on Team GB.

Well, so what if it is? Firstly, we are by no means the only coun­try to do this. Olympics fans in France this week­end were well served, as long as they only like hand­ball and fenc­ing. Les autres sports? Non.

And cov­er­age in the USA? In sum­mary: USA! USA! USA!

Overtly par­ti­san cov­er­age on foot­ball doesn’t work, and isn’t even nec­es­sary, be­cause ev­ery fan of ev­ery club is al­ready con­vinced that the wretched swines on the TV are paid agents of United/City/ Town/ Rovers/Cefn Druids any­way. With Olympic sports it works, be­cause most of us are on the same side.

There is a cu­rio value to th­ese Olympic ac­tiv­i­ties but, if we are go­ing to live in a world where we have coun­tries at all, peo­ple are go­ing to be more in­ter­ested when there is one of their own in­volved.

We are tribal crea­tures, even when it comes to horsey disco danc­ing.

In ad­di­tion, the back­sto­ries of the ath­letes are more re­lat­able if we fo­cus on the ones from Guild­ford rather than Gu­atemala.

The small sports are ef­fec­tively com­pet­ing in one of those in­ter­nal mar­kets that politi­cians seem so keen on.

The av­er­age punter is as knowl­edge­able and pas­sion­ate about ca­noe­ing as he or she is about archery, i.e. an en­tirely blank slate, and a blank slate that could not care less out­side the Olympics.

But, a sniff of a Bri­tish suc­cess story and sud­denly your un­known com­men­ta­tor buried among the snake-charm­ing and syn­chro­nised knit­ting on the red but­ton is look­ing at BBC prime-time glory. In­deed, a gold medal might be the dif­fer­ence be­tween a Lot­tery fund­ing jack­pot and a trip to the Job Cen­tre for many in­volved in the sport.

It is not un­rea­son­able that mi­nor sport com­men­ta­tors get a bit ex­cited about their two-week showcase ev­ery four years, and not un­rea­son­able at all that they are re­act­ing pas­sion­ately when their liveli­hoods de­pend on Team GB do­ing well.

And it is not just TV ca­reerism. The worlds of Bri­tish judo or skeet shoot­ing or bad­minton are small ones: the pun­dits cheer­lead­ing our boys and girls know th­ese com­peti­tors well and they care about them. So why not let them bang the drum for a cou­ple of weeks?

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