Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 210b - 219)


Mr Roger Mosey and Mr Dominic Coles

  Q210b  Chairman: Good morning. Thank you very much for coming. You know the background of the Committee. We have done our first report and we are now looking at a number of areas which we really did not have time to deal with properly in the first report. Sports and the BBC in sports is obviously one of those. We have read your paper. Thank you very much for sending that in. I think, if we may, we might just go straight into the questions now. What evidence have you about the value that the licence fee payer places upon sport; in other words, its popularity amongst licence fee payers?

  Mr Mosey: I think sport is a vital part of the BBC's overall portfolio. We do top drama, top comedy, top entertainment and sport is a very important part of that mix. Sport can still bring the biggest audiences to the BBC. We had 25 million people watching England against Portugal in Euro 2004 and we would expect huge audiences for the Olympics in 2012 at the BBC. So numerically there is a lot of evidence that viewers and listeners value BBC sport.

  Q211  Chairman: So it is considered very important by you, but you cannot cover everything.

  Mr Mosey: Absolutely.

  Q212  Chairman: Your paper says that over time certain sporting events have become synonymous with the BBC, Wimbledon, the Grand National and the Olympics. Do I not remember cricket being synonymous with the BBC?

  Mr Mosey: Yes. It was a blow to the BBC in 1999 when we lost Test cricket, absolutely.

  Q213  Chairman: Why did you lose it?

  Mr Mosey: I have been in this job for three months so I was not running BBC Sport in 1999. I think the BBC was taken slightly unawares by a very competitive and ambitious bid from Channel 4 at the time.

  Q214  Chairman: Was it a question that the BBC could not afford it?

  Mr Mosey: I think in 1999 that was probably not the case. I think there had been an assumption at the BBC to cover cricket for generations and, therefore, suddenly there was a competitive market in which the BBC lost out.

  Q215  Chairman: Regrets now? Last summer must have been about the most exciting cricket series ever.

  Mr Mosey: There is an interesting point about live television coverage of cricket. We did some research which showed that 29 million people followed the cricket last summer. Of those, 12 million people did follow cricket on the BBC because, of course, we have the Test Match Special on Radio 4, we changed the scheduling of Radio Five Live to bring a lot more cricket on, and our on-line site reached a record of 3.3 million hits in one day, that is all on the basis of cricket. So we did provide a lot of cricket coverage, news and journalism for UK audiences. We have also said that we would like to bid for cricket in 2009 when the rights next become available, but it does depend on scheduling and value for money.

  Q216  Chairman: So you do have some regrets, really.

  Mr Mosey: We have. In the last three months Dominic and I have secured the rights to the highlights of the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies in 2007, so we do see cricket is an important part of television on the BBC if we can get cricket rights and it is a vital part of our radio offering.

  Q217  Chairman: When you actually cost cricket, by definition it takes up an awful lot of space on BBC Two, do you cost in the savings that you have from not actually showing other programmes?

  Mr Coles: The way that we value sports rights across the piece is by looking at the absolute cost of providing those services, the right costs and the production costs. You then look at the number of hours output that will be generated from acquiring those rights and then you do a comparative measure against what else can actually deliver in those spots, what is displaced by putting cricket into the schedules which would otherwise have been playing through that period of time, and what cost savings. You are absolutely right in saying that we do make those calculations. In addition to that we look at more subjective qualities, such as the type of audience that sport delivers, which may be different from your mainstream afternoon audiences. Clearly what sport is trying to do is to reach out to younger audiences, ethnic audiences and audiences which the BBC has found more hard to reach more recently because of the competing technologies and competing interests which are available.

  Q218  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: We have all got great friends who are passionate about sport. I have one who will only watch sport and is furious with the BBC for having lost cricket. Are you quite certain there was not an element of thinking it was getting rather boring and it was not really the sport that you wished to cover when you lost it?

  Mr Mosey: I would hope not. I think there are two stages to this. In 1999 it was a shock to the BBC and to the wider broadcasting world that Channel 4 came in for cricket because traditionally only the BBC had bid for or scheduled main Test cricket. We took a decision to bid for cricket World Cup highlights before the climax of the Ashes series. The cricket World Cup is something we wanted to have on BBC television in highlights form if we could. Our commitment to cricket on radio is absolute. I have no illusions that cricket is not a very important sport and the BBC should provide coverage of it.

  Q219  Lord King of Bridgwater: Does Mr Coles report to you or does he tell you how much money he is going to have and you then decide what you go for? Mr Mosey said he has been doing this for a few months. When did you start doing your job?

  Mr Coles: I started doing my job five years ago. I joined after they lost the cricket. I have a joint reporting line, one is to Roger and the other is to the Finance Director of the BBC, in terms of my responsibilities as Finance Director of BBC Sport.

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