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SBD Global/August 10, 2012/Olympics

BBC Critcized For Being Too Patriotic In Olympic Coverage

Former Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe gives commentary for the BBC Aug. 1.
BBC General Dir Mark Thompson has ordered channel controllers "to remember that other countries are competing in the Olympics as well as Team GB, and not to focus too heavily on British successes," according to Ben Webster of the LONDON TIMES. Thompson delivered the instruction Thursday in his daily morning conference call with senior staff. It angered some BBC staff, who "interpreted it as criticising coverage of the Olympics for being too patriotic." However, Thompson "swiftly reassured them that this had not been his intention." BBC execs were aware that some foreign media commentators had criticised the corporation’s coverage for "lacking impartiality in being too eager to cheer on Team GB." Time magazine reported Thursday that U.S. journalists were "puzzled by what they considered to be 'jingoistic' coverage of the Games" by the BBC (LONDON TIMES, 8/9).

FORTNIGHT OF AMAZINGS: In London, Chris Hewett wrote: "After almost a fortnight of 'fantastics' and 'amazings' and 'unbelievables' and 'utterly staggerings' -- at a time when the ridiculously overcooked is considered dangerously underdone -- can we honestly express surprise if the lingua franca starts feeding on itself? Probably not." He continued: "But conceit of Olympian dimensions is of no help to the corporation in its fight to the death with the forces of deregulation, which show no sign of dispersing despite the retreat of the Murdochs. A little humility, foreign as it may be to certain '5 Live' presenters, would not go amiss." At the same time, it is "possible to argue that no one has ever made a better job of covering an Olympic gathering across its vast 26-sport, 300-discipline spectrum." The BBC did all this with no advertisements, which is, "of course, the killer point." There was "no stupid dog saying 'oh yes' every five minutes; no pantomime Caruso with a daft moustache serenading us with the name of a price comparison website; no bloody meerkats" (INDEPENDENT, 8/9).

TOUGH INTERVIEW: In Sydney, Cassandra Murnieks reported that the BBC has been criticized for its Olympics coverage, but former Australian swimmer and broadcaster Ian Thorpe "has helped come to its rescue." BBC execs and the British public are "taking a liking to him." The BBC came under fire on social media "about the lack of emotion some commentators displayed when interviewing losing athletes." BBC commentators Jill Douglas and Sharron Davies "were criticised" about interviews with British athletes. Twitter users accused interviewers of "trying to make athletes feel bad about their performance." However, the BBC's TV ratings have been exceptional, with the second biggest audience of the Olympics tuning in on the night of the 100m final, when Usain Bolt won Gold (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/10).

AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE: Former NBC Sports Chair and current Olympics advisor Dick Ebersol said, "I've been watching the BBC, which is one of the most respected entities in the world, right? Well, they will cut away from races to show a British athlete who is finishing fifth. They openly root for their athletes on the air. It's a different approach, but we have never done that." Ebersol added, "There's a great tradition in American television of professionalism in coverage, and I believe we live up to that tradition." As for the tape-delay controversy, Ebersol said, "If someone wants to watch the Olympics live, they can do that online. That's a very small percentage of people. We've done study after study where we ask people when they want to watch the Olympics. They say 'after dinner.' Every study, I've never seen it less than 80 percent, and it's usually a lot higher than that" (SPORTSONEARTHBLOG.com, 8/8).
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Olympics, United Kingdom

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