Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Speeches – 2009

Roger Mosey

Roger Mosey

Director, London 2012

Speech given at the Central Council of Physical Recreation National Conference

Check against delivery

I want to concentrate today on two words: "partnership" and "focus". Partnership is something you'll be hearing about a lot from the BBC, and I want to explain what it could mean around the Olympics and Sport; while focus is what I believe we increasingly need as broadcasters – and as a country and as a sports industry – to deliver the Olympics in the best possible way.

We start in the BBC from the principle that the licence fee is a unique privilege – bringing with it the responsibility to make every pound work for our audiences, and to support the wider creative industries. It's been independently estimated by PWC that the BBC adds £6.5billion to the UK economy – nearly twice the value of the licence fee; and of that fully £5billion is of benefit to the creative economy.

That emphatically includes sport, and I'm proud as the outgoing Director of Sport that our team renewed so many of our major contracts and guaranteed the future on free-to-air television of Wimbledon, the Six Nations, Match Of The Day, Formula 1 and all the rest. Audiences expect top sport on the BBC, and there's a clear benefit to society of having the biggest British events and winners available to all. It puts sport at the heart of our collective national experience; and it guarantees involvement when those events are seen by millions. That's why we support the maintenance of listed events which help to ensure that major sport is available to all citizens.

But the commitment goes beyond that. I was delighted that we were able to do a joint deal with Sky for coverage from next season of the Championship and Leagues One and Two: there's a clear public service fit in offering higher profile coverage of the Football League, and in spreading the benefits of our rights investment. It dovetails with the way the BBC is now trying to spread the licence fee more evenly around the UK: everything from BBC Sport's move to the North West of England – an investment worth hundreds of millions of pounds – to last week's announcement that Sports Personality Of The Year will be broadcast from Sheffield. It's the latest stage of the journey that has taken us from a studio in Shepherd's Bush to becoming a flagship event for the regions, as anyone who experienced brilliant nights in Liverpool and Birmingham will know.

Then we offer coverage on our range of platforms to an array of other sports that are outside the more predictable diet of football. Some are the obvious headliners like this year's world championship swimming, world championship athletics and world championship gymnastics from the O2. But we'll also have white-water canoeing on BBC One at the end of the month; there'll be the European three-day event championships; and extensive coverage of the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester. I know my successor as Director of Sport, Barbara Slater, is keen to see how we can maintain and expand the breadth of that portfolio.

That fits into what I'll be doing around the Olympics: making sure that we work closely with the various sporting bodies involved (like this one) – and, of course, with the other main stakeholders such as LOCOG, the IOC, DCMS, the Mayor's office and all the commercial partners too. There will clearly be a significant investment of the licence fee around the Olympic Games of 2012, but it's more than just about money: our partnership agenda overall is about the way we can work with people in fresh ways, the aim that we transcend former rivalries to produce real value for the creative industries and for the UK.

So we know this is an unprecedentedly tough commercial environment. We know there's deep pain in the economy. But we believe in the broadcasting sector that the licence fee is a major part of the solution: a strong BBC is a guarantor of strong British content and of investment in vital sectors like sport. For the Olympics, we will offer thousands of hours of coverage on a multiplicity of platforms and devices – giving sport its best ever showcase, and driving the use of new digital services in the year of analogue switch-off. Just as we did with Beijing, we want to celebrate British success; encourage interest in British sport; and give impetus to British innovation on the TV, on radio, online and on mobile.

To take just one example of that – video streaming of the Olympics in the UK increased by a factor of 13 between Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. We led Europe in the take-up of viewing online, and we had almost 40 million requests for content. Just imagine how that can expand even further by 2012, and how it has the potential to be the breakthrough moment for digital services that the Coronation back in 1953 was for television. The impetus comes not from our own imagination but simply from the needs of our audiences: it's what they're demanding, what they expect. And the BBC – working in partnership with the Olympics, the sports of the UK and the digital creative industries – can help deliver it.

But I don't want to lose sight of the "f-word": focus. None of this will be achieved if we have a scatter-gun approach, and it seems to me we're in a critical phase of the Olympic planning. There was the "Road to Singapore" – the battle against the odds to win the games and the successful search for innovation in our bid. There was then, you might say, the barrier of Beijing: the fact that we had the challenge of the games in China before it was our turn. Certainly in the BBC it meant that between 2005 and 2008 we were planning much more for Beijing than for London. Well, now it really is us next. It's only just over three years to go; and for the broadcasters, for the organisers and for the country it feels like it's time to make our minds up. The decisions now are not about 328 things we might like to do; it's about what we're actually going to do. Prioritisation from amid the promises, hard choices emerging from the options that were kicked around in the past.

In the BBC we have a simple prescription for what should emerge from this when we do the process internally. Fewer, bigger, better. Go for the events that show the real benefit of the investment of time and money; concentrate on those moments that the audience will remember because they're of high quality and demonstrable value. It's what I think should happen with the Cultural Olympiad – where we're also working with a range of partners – and it's just as relevant for sport.

And let me explain what I mean. It doesn't imply we should be any less comprehensive in our reporting: with our website now at the heart of our operation, and with digital radio and television services, there's more content than ever before. There's sports news, video and audio on bbc.co.uk/sport around-the-clock, reaching eight million or more people each week.

But for the breakthrough moments you need the right events and the right story to tell. Thirty minutes of perfectly-ok content on TV or radio once in a while doesn't put your sport into the national consciousness. What does shift opinions is the great event with the fantastic achievement or the memorable personalities: and that's not just something like Federer v Nadal at Wimbledon. It's also the British Curling Gold watched by six million people at midnight in the Winter Olympics; it's Chris Hoy's story being told for some years – and across the BBC's services in Scotland and UK-wide, and in events like the world track cycling we showed last Spring from Manchester – well before the triumphs of Beijing; and it's by following our young track stars as they break records in Gateshead, and as they show us their commitment in programmes like Olympic Dreams, before they step out into the stadium at Stratford.

In other words, when we say that we want partnerships – and we do – there is just that one piece of conditionality about focus. We need your help in telling us what is editorially compelling, what will attract people's attention. No-one has infinite resources and the choices sometimes will be about covering fewer things because we – and the industry in general – have to live within budgets and identify what's really a priority. But with "fewer" comes "bigger" and "better" for the rest: using our range of services to reach the maximum number of people, spreading the word as widely as possible and getting more involvement around the landmark events.

There will be no bigger event in the UK in our lifetimes than the London Olympics, so we have that task squarely before us – and I've every confidence that we'll collectively rise to that challenge. The real question, and the area where we most need to work together, is how we build up to that summer over the next three years; and then how we capture the best of it and turn it into a legacy that will last. I can think of no better framework than a series of partnerships to deliver that; and I can think of no greater necessity than to make the choices soon about which ideas we'll back and what the best outcomes should be. We're ready to take that on, and we'd love to work with you to achieve a great result for this country.

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