Examination of Witnesses (Questions 210b
WEDNESDAY 9 NOVEMBER 2005
Mr Roger Mosey and Mr Dominic Coles
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
So it is considered very important by you, but you cannot cover
Mr Mosey: Absolutely.
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
Mr Mosey: Yes. It was a blow to the BBC in 1999
when we lost Test cricket, absolutely.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.