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Where we stand on BBC Olympics tickets

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Roger Mosey | 16:39 UK time, Wednesday, 30 March 2011

There's less than a month to go now if you want to get in your request for tickets for the London Olympics.

Around the BBC 2012 office, as in a multitude of others, there's been much scrutiny of the timetable; and I've heard the debate many people around the UK are having.

"If I try to buy tickets for the really big events, what happens if I don't get them - or what happens if I do?" One route leads to needing some fallbacks, while the other risks a big bill if you're lucky in the ballot.

Any of us wanting to buy tickets for our personal use are using the same external process as everybody else. But in the light of the discussion about how other public bodies are buying seats for the Games, I thought this would be a good time to explain the BBC's overall policy on ticket purchases.

Rightsholding broadcasters are often allowed to buy tickets - or in some cases a small number are allocated free - as part of their contract with sporting bodies. This happens routinely for major events across the world.

Children at launch of ticket sales on March 15

The Games organisers opened the sale of tickets in March in a fanfare of publicity

Here at the BBC, for these Olympics we've tried to balance two things.

First, we do need to buy some tickets for reasons that I'll explain. But also we have to make sure we're spending licence-fee money wisely and not unreasonably limiting the number available to the public.

We therefore started with some firm principles about what we would NOT do.

  1. There will be no tickets given free to any BBC staff member or on-screen talent for personal use, no matter what their level of seniority or fame
  2. No tickets will be available for family members, partners or friends of BBC employees
  3. We will not purchase tickets for the very highest demand events like the Opening and Closing ceremonies
  4. We will also not buy any top-price super-premium tickets for any event.

But we do require tickets for domestic production reasons, such as getting commentators and producers to some events as part of their preparations and research, or as competition prizes for members of the public; and some for a strictly limited amount of business use where a ticket may be provided to an external guest - for example to a visiting international broadcaster who may want to see behind the scenes at the BBC's Olympic Park headquarters.

So to that end we've bought an average of 27 tickets for each day there is competitive, ticketed sport.

These are spread across a range of events and venues across the UK, so typically there'll be four for the swimming and four for the rowing - and we've avoided block-bookings of the kind made by the corporate sponsors, who obviously have a far greater ticket allocation.

We will be allocating these tickets between production and business use as we firm up our coverage plans ahead of the Games.

If any of the tickets aren't used for the purposes I've set out, they would then be made available to BBC staff in a ballot - but anyone successful would have to pay the full face value.

No discounts and again no tickets for family or friends. As part of our commitment to transparency, the BBC will publish details of the tickets allocated for business use in due course.

This is a policy overall that is far tougher than most other host-nation broadcasters would contemplate; but it's important that we operate fairly - and, as I hope we're showing here, that we're also open about what we're doing.


  • Comment number 1.

    Roger, when you inevitably go to the 100m final will you walk out of the stadium before the race thus wasting your seat which could have been used by a member of the public?

    This is what happened during THE Federer v Nadal final a few years ago. You left possibly the greatest match of all-time early (presumably when you were on a BBC ticket) when many people would have paid a fortune to be there.

  • Comment number 2.

    What you're referring to is the Wimbledon final that over-ran by about 4 hours, so as Director of Sport I went to make a series of calls to BBC One and the production team about the schedule. Under the ticket exchange scheme, my seat then went to a member of the public.

  • Comment number 3.

    Roger thanks for going to the trouble to explain the BBC process

    However could you explain why the media can't gain access to commentary or press areas under a professional (media/press) pass system rather than taking up public seats?

  • Comment number 4.

    The whole allocation of tickets for the games makes my blood boil. I understand that for the main events (ie the events people actually want to see) less than half the tickets are available to the public , and instead these tickets are given to councillors , government civil servants, corporate backers and ,yes, the BBC, and even worse they are being paid for by us. At least some London councils have the good sense to realise how angry people are going to be when many people miss out on the ballott for big events but see their councillors swanning along to the events. Like hainba I dont' understand why the BBC need to take up any allocation over and above normal media access

  • Comment number 5.

    Hainba and Stevieb - thanks for the comments.

    Stevieb: I think it's worth underlining that we've bought many fewer tickets than we were entitled to under the contract, and there are pre-set allocations - as you suggest - for corporate sponsors, domestic/foreign broadcasters and the rest. Of our average 27 tickets a day, I hope a number will go to the public through competition prizes across BBC programmes; and again I'd stress that none of these tickets are about BBC executives swanning along to events for personal use. Every ticket will have a production or business purpose approved by the BBC 2012 Steering Group.

    On the point you both make about commentary areas - our press office explained this to the one journalist who's so far written a story:

    'Many producers/commentators will have a level of accreditation that allows them access to events only, but not an allocated seat. There will not be spare seats in the commentary boxes and they would not be allowed to sit in press seats, which would already have been allocated. The ticket will allow them to properly view the event to enable them to prepare for their next commentary.'

    But again this will be a minority of the allocation that we'll keep as small as possible in the spirit of guaranteeing each ticket is used for a clear production or business reason.

  • Comment number 6.

    Seems like even the BBC is being short changed by the organisers. Surely the home media need more space than others.

    Also doesn't mean we are just paying for the tickets twice as tax payers & licence payers? Plain daft really....

  • Comment number 7.

    Questions that come to mind based on your post, Roger:

    1. Will you be releasing a full breakdown of exactly which events the BBC have purchased tickets for, how many have been purchased per event and which category tickets have been acquired?

    2. Will each ticket you've bought be allocated to a particular person and for a particular use before the Games begin or will some be left 'spare' to be bought by BBC employees as and when necessary?

    3. Following on from that, have those on average 27 tickets per day been acquired just for the TV coverage team or for the whole of the BBC, including Radio, Online, News etc?

    4. Just to clarify priniciple 1, if, for example, Hazel Irvine asks you for a ticket for one of the cycling finals she will not be given one for free but will have the option of buying one if the BBC has any available, thus circumventing the ballot?

    5. You mention that you've had to buy tickets to allow commentators and directors to do their research and preparation but why do they actually have to be at the venue to do that rather than watching the action on monitors in the broadcast centre?

    6. Why do you even feel the need to run competitions for viewers to win tickets and, indeed, is it not a bit risky to be handing them out as easy as anything in this manner when people are scrabbling to acquire tickets in the conventional way?

    7. Has the BBC, as the home broadcaster, been given a greater priority in acquiring tickets and a greater allocation than the rest of the world's broadcasters or do they all have the ability to buy 27 or more tickets per day for their own purposes? What kind of allocation has the biggest Olympics rights-holder, NBC, been given?

  • Comment number 8.

    Do the producers/commentators not trust the BBC's own coverage such that they feel they must be at the event instead of watching it on their own television channel? Surely this would be the easier and cheaper option for those "preparing for their next commentary" and often give them a better view.

  • Comment number 9.

    Jason in #7 - thanks for the questions, and here are some answers (which should also cover Jack's point in #8).

    1. We've said we'll publish details of our business use of tickets. But they're as I describe them: typically 2 or 4 per event, none for the expected mega-demand sessions like ceremonies, none in super-premium, no hospitality packages.

    2. The use of tickets by individuals will, as I said in #5, be signed off by the BBC 2012 Steering Group. They haven't yet been allocated but the categories are as I describe them in the original blog.

    3. The tickets are for the whole of the licence-fee BBC: the BBC 2012 project represents all the main divisions, and the Steering Group includes the directors of TV, radio and future media.

    4. I don't want to get into hypotheticals, but we'll obviously make decisions based on business use being prioritised over personal use. If there are any tickets for the latter, they will be paid for by individuals at full price.

    5. As much of our reporting as possible is based on "being there". I wouldn't want all our commentating to be done 'off tube' and it's important people capture the atmosphere from the venue. But we will do that across the event using a range of approaches, and these tickets will be a relatively minor part of it.

    6. Because this project represents the whole of the domestic BBC, competitions could vary from Sport Relief to a National Lottery Show and Radio 1. They would be highly-desirable prizes, as you say, but with the virtue of being cost-effective compared with alternatives.

    7. Broadcasters worldwide have an entitlement to tickets. There was reference to this in a Daily Telegraph piece at the end of last year saying how the allocations are broken down:

    "Of the 8.8 million tickets, 6.6 million will be available to the British and European Union public while the remaining will be divided between non-European ticket sales through national Olympic committees (13 per cent), sponsors and broadcasters (10 per cent) and international sports federations (1 per cent) and prestige hospitality (1 per cent)."

    Hope this answers the main points...


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