BBC Bias in Sport

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I love sport and watch a lot of it on TV. I also use the BBC’s Ceefax service every day, both for news and sport. We no longer take a printed newspaper. We do currently subscribe to the electronic Daily Mail, but as my wife often hogs the Kindle first thing, I catch up with the world via Ceefax.

I don’t think that any rational, even-handed person can argue that the BBC is not biased in a great deal of its output. You only have to watch/listen to the headlines in news bulletins for a few days to spot the bias, which they of course deny! Political bias might be expected in any organisation, but the BBC’s bias in sport is almost incredible.

The BBC has lost the TV rights to many sports over recent years, and apart from a small number of ‘crown jewel’ events, they are largely restricted to highlights or minor sports. You might think that they would improve their coverage in other media as a result of their losses, but that certainly doesn’t apply to Ceefax.

Why do I use Ceefax rather than the BBC website? There are two main reasons: firstly, the last time I used the website, it was unreliable (e.g. watching a ‘live’ text commentary on a football match, the headline score and the text flipped back and forth on successive updates, i.e. the score went from 2-1, back to 1-1, then to 2-1, etc.); secondly, ease of use – the website on a tablet is too small to read easily, so I have to go to my PC, whereas the remote control allows me to read Ceefax whilst continuing to watch a program. There is also a question of access: most people have a TV capable of accessing Ceefax; many do not have ready access to a PC.

The Rugby Union page on Ceefax used to be 370. Some time ago, for no apparent reason, it was changed to 368 and page 370 was given to Rugby League. I am also interested in Rugby League, but this change was just tinkering for tinkering’s sake, IMHO.

I can’t remember exactly when, but Ceefax was restructured recently, to “simplify finding information” or some such balderdash. It didn’t! I knew the numbers of the pages I wanted to read and could go to them directly. The multi-tiered structure now limits this, as page numbers are not displayed for all pages, so I’m forced to go laboriously up and down one layer at a time.

Back to the bias … in Rugby Union. Exaggerating to illustrate: if a Welsh prop forward breaks a finger nail, it makes the headlines; if England wins a tournament, there is no news.

There are tournaments that do not exist according to Ceefax. These include the excellent IRB Sevens series, the Junior World Cup and the Women’s World Cup. Perhaps this is because they are broadcast on Sky Sports?

I don’t think I have ever seen any information about the Sevens series, not even results. Could this be because Wales hasn’t historically done very well in these tournaments? (They are improving, so maybe we will start to get information soon.)

During the Junior World Cup (June 2014), England had been doing rather well, Wales not so well. I cannot recall seeing anything about the tournament on Ceefax, until 15th June when what did appear annoyed me so much that I decided to register a complaint.

I was a bit surprised to find that the BBC Complaints website was in English and Welsh – no Cornish or Klingon – and I wondered how many people actually use Welsh in their everyday lives … but that’s another story.

My complaint was worded as follows:

“Although it continually issues denials, there can be little doubt in the minds of fair-minded people that the BBC is extremely biased towards the ‘left wing’ in politics. There are too many examples of the bias for it not to be true. However, on this occasion, my complaint is about sport, and rugby in particular, on Ceefax. I look at Ceefax every day for up to 30 mins, for sport and more general news. I have noticed on previous occasions that Welsh rugby gets more coverage than rugby elsewhere in the UK or elsewhere. The Junior World Championship [for Under 20s], being staged in New Zealand, started two weeks ago. Until today, I have not seen a single report or even result list on Ceefax. However, thanks to Sky Sport, I’ve been able to watch most matches and the standard of rugby has been exceptional at times. This morning, I watched the two semi-finals. In the first, defending champions England had a fairly easy win against Ireland, who were outclassed at times. The second semi-final, between favourites and 2012 winners South Africa and four-times winners New Zealand. The match was excellent and the result was in doubt until the penultimate minute. What, then do I find about JWC 2014 on Ceefax? I expected the usual ‘no mention’, but I was wrong! There is a report that Wales lost a “semi-final play-off” to France and will now contest seventh place. It was not a semi-final playoff and in terms of the overall competition, was of very minor interest for most. Totally biased!!!”

I got an email response the same day, which included the following:

“We aim normally to reply within 10 working days (around 2 weeks) depending on the nature of your complaint.”

Eight days later (23rd June), I received a further email, which included the following:

“This is to let you know that we have referred your complaint to the relevant staff but that it may take longer than 10 working days to reply.”

Some five weeks later (31st July), I received a final response, the full text of which was:

Reference CAS-2756838-FNDF36

Thank you for your contact regarding BBC output.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the delay in responding to your complaint.

Be assured that our colleagues in BBC Sport were made aware of this issue at the time.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.

The word “responding” implies that this is a response; not in my book it isn’t!

What does “were made aware” of mean? Did someone say to “the colleagues” WTTET “We’ve had an email from a nutter.”, or did they inform “the colleagues” of the nature and wording of my complaint, or did it go straight into the electronic WPB? More importantly, what was the response of “the colleagues” when they were “made aware” of it? Did they say “He’s right, but why care, we know what’s best.”, or was it “Leave it a month to piss him off, then send him a ‘content-free’ response.”?

I use the phrase ‘content-free’ because in terms of a response to my complaint, it is exactly that; it says nothing.

Although it was just one thing that I complained about, the pro-Welsh bias on Ceefax is not new, and it is still going on. Check it yourself for a few days and I’m sure you’ll see examples of it.

I believe that we in the UK don’t complain enough about poor products and services, which is why we get so many poor products and services foisted upon us. It is difficult when faced with this sort of service. I was going to leave it alone, but think I might now submit a complaint about the complaints procedure, and see where that gets me.

I realise that my complaint is not of great importance in the overall world. However, it is so blatant and easily identifiable, that getting this point over might make it easier to demonstrate some of the less obvious biases.

That’s all in that – until I complain about the complaints procedure – and it’s longer than I expected, but I won’t edit it as I want to get on to other issues, such as the Customer (Dis)service provided in the UK by Procter & Gamble for Braun products.

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