Fixing the BBC Sports website: The start of a conversation

September 23, 2016

Corporal Jones

The BBC is currently asking users to comment on its Sports website.  I will do, but feel that setting out a few thoughts for wider discussion among LWD subscribers may also be useful

Over recent months I have found the new BBC sports website sadly lacking in the information I have relied on it to provide. It no longer can keep up with the speed of information, and the quantity of information generated by the minute.

Not for want of trying

This is not for want of trying. The BBC new sports website has presumably been changed to meet challenges of delivery to mobiles, iPads as well as PCs. The information is increasingly presented in a format I do not want, such as videos which are not far removed from clickbait.

If you haven’t come across clickbait, it is a means of attracting visits to a location which mainly turns out to be less than was promised. The BBC, ironically, outlines how the system works, and why Facebook is working out how to deal with it

The BBC challenge of sport reporting

I choose as an example tennis, a sport which the BBC lavishes considerable attention to, two weeks of the year, during Wimbledon fortnight. But for the rest of the year, including the other three slam events, tennis is poorly served. When I want to know what is happening, or even what might have happened the day before, I now turn reluctantly to twitter for rapid news.

Typically, the BBC website ‘news’ focuses on a few top tennis stories unable to provide the wider picture. At present (The US Open) the site has been unable to cope with the big stories.  But even the GB players have not been covered, for example Andy Murray’s older brother Jamie in his doubles performances that took him briefly to world No 1.

A web-site design which emphasizes its weaknesses

Even with increased budget constraints, the design seems to have failed to be fit for purpose of delivering what users want, immediacy of news.  The technical challenges are immense. But the chosen design asks too much of the user, too many clicks to get to a sport such as tennis. (I suppose this is the antithesis to clickbait). The design also sends out an obvious signal that the BBC has not been able to provide a complete service.

No market leader

Fortunately for the Beeb, no other site has emerged as the dominant leader in sports information either. In the UK, Sky sports, for example, is hardly ripping up trees, making rain, making the earth move (choose your metaphor). The Sky coverage of the football transfer day on August 31st was mocked for its weirdness. ‘Reached new surreal heightsas the Telegraph put it.

It may well be that such a market leader will emerge from the slick websites of one of the popular red tops such as The Daily Mail, which arrived early into web-based sports news.

Politics and the BBC

The BBC has become something of a political football.  Governments of the right have been sympathetic to the view that the BBC is given an unfair advantage over the poor private sector news businesses such as Rupert Murdoch’s News International.  This has undoubtedly contributed to the travails of the Corporation.  Nevertheless, there is still scope for a creative response to the challenge of delivering news in general, and sports news in particular.  Whether there is time is another matter.

To continue the discussion

Please contribute your thoughts on this matter. There may be someone ready to listen and act somewhere in the BBC, if the posts can attract enough support.


John Whittingdale: The BBC bites back

April 13, 2016

The culture minister John Whittingdale is embroiled in a story about his relationship with a consort considered unsuitable for a minister of the crown.  It is tempting to link his story to that of the affair of the hapless John Profumo, many years ago

 The context to this story is the febrile political atmosphere in the UK, where there is an appetite for political mischief in the run-in to the EU referendum.

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BBC Three Plans New Watchdog Programme on Scamming

March 26, 2016

anonymous

The BBC Watchdog programme continues its series on phishing and scamming. We report from a LWD subscriber on a classic scamming attempt

My first semi-smart phishing message purportedly from an old friend was realistic.  It said that he was trapped, having lost his wallet and passport in a hotel in Singapore. We had worked together there, and it was at least possible that he was there on a business trip.

This was a few years ago, before the scam became tiresomely obvious. Its slight error was to leave the impression through its style that it was that phoney. It was not quite how my friend would have written it (no mention of our shared experiences, for example, although these would not ‘prove’ much).

I can’t remember when my initial suspicion turned into certainty, but I ignored the message.

Since then I have had various versions, including the classics on:

The billions available to me in Africa

The unpaid bills I must pay

The inheritance awaiting confirmation

The ‘check’ on my corrupted bank account.

These are mostly implausible   A few I report to the IT department of my employer, whose name I will not mention here. These have always turned out to be rubbish to be deleted.

My advice is: do not reply directly. Never supply information of a sensitive nature. Check by other means where your friend is.

Best wishes

Suggestions welcomed

Suggestions welcomed, although I hesitate to publish any that might incur wilful scamming from malicious spirits out there [TR]

 


The BBC and the paradox of neutrality

March 11, 2016

thatchertank

The BBC has been hailed as an example of a broadcaster with a reputation for balanced reporting. However, its commitment to balance contributes to beliefs that it is institutionally biased. I call that the paradox of neutrality

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Chris Evans and the charismatic denial

June 27, 2015

charismatic-leadership

When Jeremy Clarkson was fired from Top Gear in March, Chris Evans was always favorite to rescue the BBC’s biggest-earning show.

At first, Evans made unequivocal statements about his lack of interest in taking over, and then announced he been had signed up to replace Clarkson.

His behaviours capture aspects of what might be called the charismatic denial.

Background

Jeremy Clarkson’s high-speed career had crashed spectacularly. You might say he had been building up penalty points on his license to perform, even while he was transforming the BBC’s Top Gear TV programme into a global hit, transmitted to over 200 countries. Multiple controversies and his persona of the superstar petrol-head were essential elements in a show which was brilliantly filmed and produced.

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Jeff Tarango is the Homer Simpson of tennis commentators. Duh.

September 8, 2014

Tennis commentator Jeff Tarango wears his heart on his sleeve. At the US Open he revealed remarkable similarities to Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson is the much-loved character in the peerless comedy series The Simpsons. He is portrayed as capturing popular stereotypes of the American culture, through his basic decency, his loyalty to his family and the American dream. He is also lovably dysfunctional socially, simplistic and unreflective in his beliefs and hapless in his unconscious mediocrity.

Jeff Tarango

Jeff Tarango has Homeric aspects to his personality. Perhaps the most famous is on U-tube showing how he defaulted himself from Wimbledon after a clash with an Umpire and a very Homer-like argument that he should be able to tell the crowd to shut up as they we telling him what to do. Then his wife, as loyal as Madge Simpson, manages to seek out the Umpire and give him a retaliatory slap.

Jeff never scaled the heights as a singles tennis player, although he crept into the top fifty with a career-best of 42. But like Homer Simpson , he had his triumphs over fate and adversity. He became a tennis pundit. Among his present employers is the BBC, as much part of the British establishment as The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club.

Tarango at the US Open

Even keen tennis fans in Europe probably missed the fantastic match at the US Open at which
Cilic beat Federer in the early hours of the morning, European time. I first learned of the result reading Tarango’s account of the match as it unfolded.

It is fair to say the Tarango is not your average neutral commentator. He wanted Federer to win. Big Time. His recorded view became more Homeric as his man struggled and headed out of the tournament.

Federer, he declared, would be back to win Wimbledon next July. In fact he would go on to win two or more Grand Slams. Most commentators were discussing whether the Fed would win another slam.

Duh

The world would be a duller place without Homer Simpson. Perhaps the same could be said about Jeff [Homer] Tarango


The Commonwealth Games illustrates the potency and symbolic nature of sport

August 2, 2014

The Commonwealth Games takes place in Glasgow as Scotland temporarily suspends campaigning for its referendum next month on independence from the United Kingdom

The Games reminded me of the Christmas Day truce in World War One. Not that I was there personally for Glasgow or WW1. According to the legend, on Christmas Day 1914, British and German troops downed arms, left their trenches and played a football match before resuming battle.

Don’t mention the war

In Glasgow during the Games, it was very much ‘don’t mention the war for independence’. If so, the truce was successful. This was perhaps because it was not clear to either the Yes or the No campaign whether political posturing would lose much-needed votes.

Overall, the Games have proceeded in an atmosphere of scarcely- controlled hysteria. Hysteria among spectators; among adrenalized athletes gasping out their semi-coherent replies at interviews minutes after completing events (“tell us what you are feeling as poster-girl now you have failed to win a medal in your favorite event”); and above all, hysteria among the assembled ranks of the broadcast media.

Gilded and giddy commentators

The BBC had more than its fair share of gilded and giddy commentators interviewing athletes and proud parents. These were performances honed by BBC experience of numerous interviews with Andy Murray and celebrity mum Judy before, during and after Wimbledon fortnight over the last few years.

The Gold standard

Great efforts were made to preserve or even enhance the value of the gold standard. The actual events were represented as all equivalently-compelling and equivalently worth watching. After all, they all offered changes to win Gold. The prospect of winning ‘yet another gold’ was the dominant marketing offer from the start of the Games. Each session was going to be special as there were so many gold medals to be won. Somehow the discourse permitted at the same time acknowledgement of the equivalence and specialness of gold and of gold-medal winners, and the lower status silver and bronze medals . (Another image: the satirical sketch of the British class system beginning “I look up to him because he is upper class and I am middle class”).

All events are equal but some are more equal than others

I enjoyed most of the actual athletic events, particularly those that lasted fewer than several hours of running, cycling, or wheel-chairing around the track. You could keep your percentage time watching athletes up by ‘using the red button’. Otherwise you were faced with a choice of multi-tasking or taking full-on the high-intensity but very cozy chats between the assorted teams of BBC commentators and guests.

Soon our revels will be over

I multi-tasked, with mobile, tablet, and library book at the ready at all times. In a few days the Games truce will be over and the referendum campaigning will begin again.