I don't pay to see the BBC become part of history
21:54 GMT, 23 April 2012
I have an old television somewhere in the cellar. It still works, I think.
The remote control is long lost. The screen now looks disappointingly small despite the bulky box around it. And crammed with the old technology of circuit boards and electric coils, the machine is an almighty lump to shift.
It is closer to the 3d of old pennies than the 3D Dolby surround sound wizardry we now take for granted.
But this was my luminous window on the sporting world. It glowed one night in 1985 when I saw Dennis Taylor pump the air with his fists after his epic triumph over Steve Davis.
Unforgettable: Dennis Taylor celebrates at the Crucible in 1985
It was my looking glass a year-and-a-half later when Nigel Mansell's Formula One championship exploded along with his rear left tyre in Adelaide.
Back then the BBC ruled the sporting airwaves. I can still hear Murray Walker's yelps of excitement, Ted Lowe's whispering calm.
Comfy: Peter Alliss has been commentating on the BBC for decades
David Coleman, John Motson, Des Lynam
and Peter O'Sullevan were instantly recognisable voices. The old box
was brimful of memories.
is a relic now, of course; no more than a personal museum piece. It has
been overtaken by innovation and advances elsewhere, much like the BBC
To hear the Royal and Ancient serve warning that the Corporation's golf coverage is not hi-tech enough is an extraordinary slap down for the broadcaster. The declaration that golf is 'keeping an eye' on the BBC's lack of investment sounds the death knell for The Open's presence on free-to-air terrestrial television.
But it is fair criticism. While the BBC
have remained true to the comfy cardigan style of Peter Alliss, with his
tuts of admonishment and gentle 'Ooo's' as a putt trundles holeward,
the American broadcaster ESPN turned up at St Andrews last year armed
with enough gizmos to launch a mission to Mars.
They blanketed The Old Course with
90-plus cameras, a shot tracer zoomed with the drives in flight and ESPN
deployed its PuttZone technology, which plots the ideal putting line,
but adds a shaded region that adjusts depending on the speed of the ball
to show how far off line an attempt can be and still have a chance of
Memorable: But will glorious moments like Darren Clarke's Open win be absent from BBC screens in the future
of ESPN said the gadgets were a 'game changer'. And so it seems. It has
certainly changed the golfing hierarchy's expectation of how The Open
should be covered.
Sky are no
slouches with their computerised thingamabobs either. They have formed
an alliance with Eurosport this summer to show 100 hours of the Olympics
in 3D, including the 100 metres final and opening and closing
ceremonies. And it will be open to all Sky+ HD subscribers.
Assurance: The BBC still cover some big events like the Six Nations
also screened Masters coverage up against the BBC and did it with the
aplomb they have long brought to football and cricket. They now have
their sights set on claiming The Open ahead of ESPN, leaving the BBC
with another late-night highlights package.
When the Beeb does live major events, it still does them with assurance. Wimbledon tennis is so much a part of their output that for a fortnight it is hard to define where the BBC ends and Wimbledon begins. In Auntie's hands the Olympics will be every bit as majestic and patriotic as the Queen's Jubilee this summer. The rugby union Six Nations is handled with great professionalism.
The BBC undoubtedly have dedicated production staff and some great journalists. But morale is low. Much of the Formula One coverage has been pillaged by Sky, horse racing has been allowed to bolt to Channel 4, ITV has pinched the French Open tennis and BBC Radio 5 Live is under pressure from commercial competitors like talkSPORT.
Hamstrung by cuts and cowed by criticism that public money is used to finance the escalating price of exclusive rights, the BBC is being pushed to the sidelines. It might be economic reality, but it is still a shame.
I pay to see the BBC cover history. Not make itself history.