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The BBC and the Paralympics

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Roger Mosey | 12:14 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

There's been a bit of a flurry recently about the Paralympic Games, which will follow the Olympics in London 2012. People have spotted that the BBC doesn't yet have the broadcasting rights to the Paralympics and the issue has been taken up by some politicians.

So last Friday I was asked to appear on BBC radio's You and Yours programme to explain what we're up to, and you can listen to that section of the programme here.

As I said on air, we're keen to get into the rights discussion as soon as possible - and the indications are that the process will start this autumn. When it does, we may be more limited in what we can say. But for now our position is clear.

The BBC is proud of its long record of covering disability sport, for which we've won awards over the years. It ranges from events like the Paralympic World Cup to the way wheelchair races are integrated within the London Marathon and wheelchair tennis in our output from Wimbledon.

Eleanor SimmondsEleanor Simmonds wins gold in Beijing

In particular, we've brought the Paralympics to huge audiences: a total of more than 20 million watched our coverage from Beijing, and the British heroes of 2008 were central to last year's Sports Personality Of The Year.

We were particularly pleased that Eleanor Simmonds got the recognition she deserved but she's just one of a number of Paralympians who've featured prominently on our airwaves - people like Tanni Grey Thompson, Ade Adepitan and David Weir.

As well as coverage on TV and radio, you'll see there's plenty online too with a complete digest in our disability sport section.

We don't, of course, think this gives us the rights to the major events of disability sport in perpetuity. But we do believe strongly that they should be available free-to-air to the largest possible audiences.

There's a risk in 2012 that the sheer size and scale of the Olympics themselves will mean that the Paralympics get less attention than they deserve - and it's sad but true that most world broadcasters left Beijing as soon as the main Olympics were over and were never seen again.

That was noted by the then Culture Secretary Andy Burnham in his speech at last year's Labour conference when he said:

"And don't you think the BBC did a great job in Beijing too? After the Olympics, the world's media departed China. The BBC - one of the very few international broadcasters to stay and cover the Paralympics. Doesn't that say something good too about British public service broadcasting?"

So our plans if we were to get the rights would again be to link strongly from the Olympics to the Paralympics - using most of the same key presenters and commentators.

We'd also put the Paralympics in the context of a huge opportunity for people with disabilities in the UK: a chance to transform attitudes and leave a legacy of achievement and greater understanding.

But most of all we'd celebrate a festival of elite sport - and make it available free-to-air across all our platforms. The Olympic broadcaster wants to remain the Paralympic broadcaster too.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    I for one, would like to see the BBC cover Goalball events. Our women are the current European champions and we are hosting the world championships in Sheffield next June. Until now, the only way for us to watch Goalball coverage has been online, with very poor sound quality and a significant delay.

    Goalball is one of the strongest sports supported by British Blind Sport. Assuming the BBC succeeds in gaining the rights to the 2012 Paralympics, I sincerely hope that Goalball will be a major part of its coverage.

  • Comment number 3.

    You removed my first post - what a surprise. Why won't the BBC tolerate criticism of the paralympics? It's not compulsory to be a fan of disabled sports.

  • Comment number 4.

    When everyone is preaching about global warming.
    Why on earth are the Olympics being held in London they should be held in Greece every four year and not moved around the world, this is just adding to the climate impact. Building stadiums which will never be full again after 2012 is a total con.
    Being an ex Londoner I moved out refusing to pay the extra council tax for the Olympics, there should be laws against this type of fraud. Get the sponsors to pay for it after all they will be making millions out of it.
    The whole thing is a con if you ask me Global Warming and the Olympics.

    Example of the global warming con.
    A few years ago I looked into solar roof panels to try to offset my families global footprint the cost was going to be £12,000, we where told by the supplier that we could apply for a grant for half this amount, great we thought. So we applied for the grant and yes we got the grant of £6,000 which would of been payable direct to the installer upon completion of the work.
    Before going ahead with the installation I decided to look into the actual costs of the items due to be installed via the internet. Well what a surprise I got when I discovered that the cost of the solar panels, wiring and all ancillaries should only cost around £5,000 including a days installation.!! Never received an explanation from the installer as to why they where charging so much for something which should of been less than half their quoted price or how the grant actually gets paid to them from the government.
    Hence to say decided not to go the solar route, maybe when the con factor is removed and the government are not a bunch crooks, we may decide to do something about it.

    I now have my doubts about global warming as there is still no hard evidence that ice caps are melting due to human activity and not just the planet going through a natural cycle. Which It is supposed to do.
    Companies & governments are making an awful lot of money out of scare mongering us all. Remember the Y2K bug!! UK spend billions on what? Some countries spent nothing.

    Never trust a politician or any anyone trying to sell you something with the promise of a grant.

    Tim
    Malton N.Yorkshire.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tim (#4) What the hell are you talking about? Perhaps if you saved time by not typing totally irrelevant comments on BBC blogs you may get somewhere in off-setting the big, hot footprint of yours.

    Personally, i'd love to see more of the Paralympics live, rather than on the highlights packages and I'll be attending the events in person where possible. Keep it up BBC.

  • Comment number 6.

    Working backwards - Revolt2009 in #4: actually, this is less off-topic than it seems. One of the government aims around the Olympics is to increase awareness of sustainability and environmental issues, though I'm not sure your solar panel experience is quite what they had in mind...

    Murray in #3: I personally never mind fair criticism, and it's not compulsory to love the Paralympics.

    Dazareth in #2: interesting. I've talked to my colleague Dave Gordon and it's something we'll certainly investigate - though Goalball isn't, as we understand it, a Paralympic sport in 2012.


  • Comment number 7.

    Roger, you wrote:

    "There's a risk in 2012 that the sheer size and scale of the Olympics themselves will mean that the Paralympics get less attention than they deserve - and it's sad but true that most world broadcasters left Beijing as soon as the main Olympics were over and were never seen again...."

    and later

    "But most of all we'd celebrate a festival of elite sport"

    I am in touch with myself enough to know why i watch the Paralympics, and why i don't. Elite Sport is not relative, though, as Oscar Pretorius found out. You either are Elite or not, and 'Elite given that i've got no legs' doesn't cut it for the vast majority. Sorry to say this.

  • Comment number 8.

    Roger,

    Thank you very much for your response. So far I have been unable to find a published list of Paralympics sports planned for 2012. However, here are links to several sources which would suggest that Goalball will be included.


    1. http://city-of-london.com/london-paralympics-2012.html

    2. http://www.britishblindsport.org.uk/goalballNews.htm

    3. http://www.team-2012.com/athletes/profile/annasharkey.aspx



    Hope this helps.

    Darren
  • Comment number 9.

    Darren in #8: whoops - you're right! We've re-consulted the Paralympic Oracle, and Goalball is in the schedule for 2012.

    Captainlazytim in #7: I don't see any problem in the term 'elite' being used about Paralympic sport. There's a good mission statement on the International Paralympic Committee's website: "The IPC is committed to enabling Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and to developing sport opportunities for all persons with a disability from the beginner to elite level. In addition, the IPC aims to promote the Paralympic values, which include courage, determination, inspiration and equality." Full site here: http://www.paralympic.org/IPC/

    Thomthomtiger in #5: sorry I missed your comment first time round because we posted more or less simultaneously. But thanks for the kind words.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think the BBC pretty much get it spot on with the paralympics, and I suspect (assuming the BBC win the rights) London 2012 would get more coverage than any host country has previously provided the event. Realistically it won't be on the same scale as the Olympics - and neither should it be as the demand simply isn't there, but I'd be surprised if the BBC offered anything less than daily live coverage and a nightly highlights show, plus additional live coverage via the red button.

  • Comment number 11.

    This is great news, I hope the BBC is successful in winning the rights to the 2012 Paralympics as I really enjoyed the coverage of Beijing. On a more personal level, one of my good friends will hopefully be competing at London 2012 in the swimming and it's fantastic to see her getting media coverage as her achievements are as deserving of recognition as that of her clubmate Rebecca Adlington's. The disability swimmers are in action in the World Championships in Iceland next week (best of luck to all of them) and it would be great to see some coverage of that as well.

  • Comment number 12.

    Tigra7 in #11 - I've just had a note from our disability sport executive, Tony Garrett, who tells me: "A small team will providing daily coverage for online, Sports News and the Regions; live radio coverage; and a 30' highlights programme in conjunction with Paralympic Sport TV for the Red Button and online. BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra are doing two nights of live coverage from Iceland, including races featuring Eleanor Simmonds."

    Brekkie in #10 and Tigra7: the issue remains, though, whether we manage to secure the rights and that's obviously in question during any process. We'd like to meet the ambition Brekkie sets: more coverage and bigger audiences than ever before. But that does depend on the outcome of the tender.

  • Comment number 13.

    Sorry to disagree, Roger, but i think 'Elite' is not a relative term. After some debate the theory that the only Paralympians who are elite are the wheelchairs (although that David bloke, British wheelchair champ, is the most moody and unpleasant person i've seen on tv) because they are the best in the world. The fact of the able-bodied 100m race automatically renders the disabled version 'non-elite'.

    Whaddya reckon? Have i just said that womens sport will never be elite if they can't match the men?

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Even if moderated, the last message was not intended to cause offence, but to honest provide a different point of view to that of the author and others who are entirely 'pro-Paralympics'. Which is probably too close to free speech for a BBC forum.

  • Comment number 16.

    #15, the BBC have a severe problem with criticism of the paralympics. They just don't understand that most people aren't interested in watching disabled people trying to do sports, yet they insist on shoving it down our throats.

  • Comment number 17.

    #16 Murray - I can't stand Eastenders, but I have that rammed my throat most nights. In comparison to a few days coverage every four years for a sporting event that is at it's most simplist form 'people competing against other people', I cannot appreciate your opinion. If you don't like it, don't watch.

  • Comment number 18.

    Good point ThomThom. And MURRAY, if you don't like it, don't watch it. People with a disability aren't 'trying' to do sport, they ARE doing sport and achieving what most of us can only dream of and that is to realise their dreams and give 100% in all that they do. And you're wrong, many people are interested and I know many who sky plussed tonnes of Paralympic coverage last year. I have brought friends to the last two paralympic games and everyone one of those friends marvels at what disabled athletes can achieve and have said they are totally inspired by them all.

    Oh and by the way, my brother is a paralympic swimmer, has 6 Paralympic gold medals, over 36 major championship medals, has travelled the world, met the queen, been on tv numerous times, has received an OBE and much more! I would love to see you tell him face to face that he trys to do sport!

  • Comment number 19.

    At least the BBC makes a point in showing Paralympic sports. Here in the USA, we almost NEVER hear of Paralympic athletes, and yet the US has won more Paralympic medals than any other country. We don't have anything close to "Sports Personality of the Year" either (the ESPYs don't count). I don't know why people are so offended at differently-abled athletes. What are they trying to say? That just because you're in a wheelchair, or because you may not have all your physical faculties, or because you're a little person, you can't and shouldn't be physically active and have all the world see what you can do? Don't give me that "sucks to be them" attitude, as we call it in America. These athletes train their, um, butts off to be not only physically active, but among the best in the world. We shouldn't denigrate them; we should celebrate them. Not all the best sportsmen and sportswomen in the world are physically perfect specimens. If that were the case, then sport would not be accessible to all, as it should be. It's one thing to be elite, but it's another thing to be elitist, which in my humble opinion is far from what sports is all about.

  • Comment number 20.

    This blog highlighs the problem. If i'm anti-Eastenders that's fine, because it's low-brow. But my comment was removed as it risked offending someone (who?), even though it expressed an honest opinion given in good faith to provoke debate.

    I'm not saying Paralympians are not sportspeople, i just think it is important to put in context.

    The other point i would make is that the Olympics should be after the Para's. They could serve as a warm-up/taster, to pique interest. I firmly believe the Paralympic audience is affected by the fact that most sports fans have watched as much as they can take in the Olympics, so the Para's is just 'shoved down their throat', as Murray says. And the Para's then suffer by comparison.

  • Comment number 21.

    Captainlazytim in #20: actually, I think you have a point about the timing. Personally I'd rather the Paralympics came first too.

    Otherwise you won't be surprised I'm more with ThomThomTiger, kinderling and AlexD869. I went to the first couple of days of the Paralympics in Beijing and it was a brilliant event so I hope people in London will have a similar experience in 2012.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks Roger,

    I'm pleased and surprised to get a reasonable response.

    I don't mean to say the Para's shouldn't happen, of course. I just think it is overdone a bit on the coverage, and poorly planned, and that there is more schadenfreude, for want of a more accurate term, amongst the viewing audience than will ever be admitted.

  • Comment number 23.

    I worry though if the Paralympics did come first, would they undermine the Olympics to an extent. It's there you want things like the Olympic Torch and new venues revealed, not the Paralympics.

    And one thing the Paralympics need to sort out is classification - it is such a mess across all sports that it's difficult to appeal to a wider audience when those inside the Paralympic movement barely understand the sport themselves. I also think they need to be careful not to kind of patronise athletes and viewers alike - Wheelchair Rugby for example - it's something that's actually fairly entertaining to watch, but in no shape or form can it be considered "rugby". It's far too Americanised for a start!

  • Comment number 24.

    also, is it right to spend money on minority sports when england play new zealand, australia and argentina this autumn (rugby union) and all those games are on sky, like the ashes, and other events in our national, major sports?

  • Comment number 25.


    It is so heart warming to read “The Olympic broadcaster wants to remain the Paralympic broadcaster too” – What a fine and consoling blog by Roger Mosey ! Thanks for expressing such tender concern and fidelity to the vocation as broadcaster who likes to include the superhuman feats of our differently-abled brethren in his broadcasting mission and ministry.

    Persons with disabilities need to be given their rightful place in our Planet-building and Planet-cherishing enterprise. Providing platforms and opportunities to our differently-abled athletes is a duty which our doubly blessed able-bodied Society can no longer distance or run away from. Paralympics are indeed a chance to all of us to transform our attitudes and grow with greater understanding of the endeavours of the differently-abled sportspersons.

    For the differently-abled athletes it is their duty and a right to leave a legacy of achievement for posterity. Overcoming the effects of disabilities, handicaps and physical limitations, our differently-abled sports persons are demonstrating courage, will power, determination and hunger to achieve the unthinkable. They compete against their own selves and against their own personal limitations.

    Purity of intention and spirit of the game are part and parcel of every sporting activity. As a consequence the voice of conscience is paramount in sports competitions and games. At a time when sports and games are getting ruined by greed and negativity that involves drug abuse, cheating, money power and faking injuries through diving on the football field in acrobatic style, the Paralympics and Disability Sports offer a ray of hope for the future of sports and games. Disabled sportspersons are finding and offering new ways and means to keep going without falling accidentally or diving intentionally. That’s special and great.

    Paralympics and Disability Sports in fact need to take the top place on the sporting agenda in our time. Sports is all about overcoming hurdles. Bridging the centuries old gap between the able-bodied and the differently-abled needs to be taken up on a war-footing. The holding of Paralympics before the usual Olympic Games is something the International Olympic Body could consider seriously. The sports loving world audience could be given a foretaste of what sports and life is all about in its authenticity and purity. The Olympic Games is a world movement and so is Disability a world phenomenon for ages.

    Putting the differently-abled on the centre of the stage is what the legendary Baba Amte of Anandwan did in India with leprosy combatants who day after day defy handicaps, disabilities, deformities and stigma. Men and women on crutches, tricycles, wheel chairs and blind cricketers wielding the willow with awesome power carry forward the spirit of the Olympic Movement in Anandwan, Hemelkasa, Somnath, Zhari, Ashokwan, Nagepalli, Khambada and Salori Prakalps. The incredibly gifted all rounders out there, through their mobility and activities in their everyday lives, proclaim loudly in unison from their roof tops: Citius, Altius, Fortius !



    Dr. Cajetan Coelho


  • Comment number 26.

    Persons with disabilities need to be given their rightful place in our Planet-building and Planet-cherishing enterprise. Providing platforms and opportunities to our differently-abled athletes is a duty which our doubly blessed able-bodied Society can no longer distance or run away from. Paralympics are indeed a chance to all of us to transform our attitudes and grow with greater understanding of the endeavours of the differently-abled sportspersons.

    Every person earns their place, Doctor. Your post is tedious, and takes into account none of the realities of television or the modern Olympics and what it stands for.

    Sentences like "Paralympics and Disability Sports in fact need to take the top place on the sporting agenda in our time" show that you don't understand the relationship between society and sport, and it's viewing.

    Paralympians are to be admired for their determination, but put within context of what they actually achieve. I personally believe wheelchair atheletes deserve a place in the main event, as they are genuinely the best in the world. But there is only one 100m final for men, and one for women, and the '100m for catagory a, b etc...' event is not the same.

  • Comment number 27.

    To those who complain about Eastenders and Paralympic Sport being rammed down their throats, you have the solution in your OWN hands - its called the TV Remote - and if that doesn't do it for you - try the OFF button since you're clearly incapable of watching intelligent and inspirational TV output!

 

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