BBC to Limit Spending on Rights But Remains Committed to Sport

The BBC will set a limit on how much it can spend on sports rights, under proposals laid out in a Strategy Review published Tuesday (March 2). The recommendations for the BBC Trust, the broadcaster’s governing body, have been drawn up by the BBC Executive and propose closing two digital radio stations and cutting £100 million from overhead costs, making £600 million available to be reinvested in “high quality content.”

The plans were leaked in The Times newspaper last week, prompting a storm of protest over the suggestion that the BBC 6Music and BBC Asian Network digital radio channels would be shut down and the BBC’s web presence halved. The BBC said at the time that such proposals could not be confirmed but now the Review has been published officially the indignation of listeners loyal to 6Music and the Asian Network has intensified.

The threat to the radio stations and the website has overshadowed proposed changes to the BBC’s sport policy. The Review reiterated the broadcaster’s commitment to delivering “a strong and valued portfolio of sport” to its audience “in a volatile and competitive market” while at the same time outlining cuts in spending.

The amount spent on sports rights by the BBC would be kept to an average of 9 percent of the license fee over a four-year period. The Review recognizes that how much is spent varies according to the significance of events in any given year and this would be taken into consideration.

The document also recommended that the amount of sport broadcast on BBC2 should be reduced and that the BBC will “continue to look for opportunities to share sports content with other broadcasters.” But the Review states that the BBC will still “provide a home for major sporting events, free to air.”

The Strategy Review comes just after the end of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. The BBC was criticized by right-wing newspapers in the UK for sending 74 staff to cover only 54 British athletes, although a spokesperson pointed out that this was 11 fewer than went to the Turin Games in 2006.

Commentary mixing, presentation, transmission and post-production facilities for BBC Sport’s cross-platform coverage were provided by BBC Studios and Post Production (S&PP) at Television Centre in London. The Games were broadcast simultaneously on BBC2 and BBC HD, as well as BBC Sport Online, BBC Mobile and the Red Button.

The big innovation for this Olympics was a customized Broadcast Network Control Systems designed by BBC S&PP’s Studio Five staff. This was used to control the vision and audio routers in Vancouver at the same time as the HD router in the Central Control Area.

Gallery Two of Studio Five was the centre for the HD production, while Red Button coverage was controlled from the Broadcast Interactive Production Area. Gallery Two was converted to HD for the duration of the Games, with a Sony 6000 mixer and multiple decodersinstalled to handle the many HD lines involved.

Four editors went over to Canada to work on the coverage but the bulk of the post-production work was done at TV Centre.