Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300 - 314)


Ms Sue Campbell CBE

  Q300  Lord Peston: Did I hear you say in answer to Lord King that your total annual expenditure is about 50 million?

  Ms Campbell: Yes.

  Q301  Lord Peston: You said just now that we do not invest enough in sport. My guess is that Chelsea's wage bill annually is about the same 50 million. One then asks where should the money be coming from. Sport obviously has values in many different ways but one is that competitive sport, especially successful competitive sport, is enormously important in developing a sense of national identity. Is there not, on the whole question of who has access to seeing sport, a fundamental matter of getting that access in order to promote that sense of national identity? I am not clear what UK Sport does that enables them to get involved with that sort of thing. I have heard your view which is very supportive of the BBC. The BBC is one of our few institutions that is the best in the world by a long way, but are you able to put pressure on those bodies to say, "We know the balancing problems but really your duty is to this country and that is what you have to make sure it becomes available to"? Could you imagine, for example, if the England football team could not be watched by most people in this country? It would be an extraordinary state of affairs.

  Ms Campbell: Our leverage—I can probably speak for all the sports councils here—varies with different sports. The four big sports that can generate significant commercial income—soccer, cricket, rugby and tennis—generate significant sums both from sponsorship and from television rights. We as public sector investors can make not a huge difference to their bottom or top line. Our ability to lead a change there is very much more about influence. There is a whole raft of sports who are very dependent on public sector investment both at grass roots and elite level: rowing, sailing, cycling, equestrian. Our ability to support and lever decisions there is much stronger and I think you will find that we have done that very successfully. Our ability to lever the decisions with those sports is very limited, except through influence. We have to recognise that soccer is very different virtually from everything else in terms of the industry that it is. It is different in the way it conducts its business, in the way it runs its board rooms and the amount of money that is there to be used. It is independently run. The premier league runs the premier league. The FA, as you know, is responsible for the England team and there are some real challenges there in terms of the governance issues that face that sport.

  Q302  Lord Peston: Do you feel it is part of your job to speak out on these matters?

  Ms Campbell: When, from 1 April, we are responsible for those sports I will be having discussions with them about some of these issues. Would I speak out publicly against them if I was working in partnership with them? No. I would work with them very closely to see if we can make decisions in the best interests of sport in this country.

  Q303  Chairman: Do the football bodies operate in a team in the same way that you were talking about a team previously?

  Ms Campbell: Dave Richards, who is the chairman of the premier league, was present in Singapore and played his part. Soccer speaks to nations around the world. He and his colleagues did a very good job in supporting the bid in the best way that they could across their own networks. They are very influential networks across the world.

  Q304  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: On the business of crucial and significant, I think you were here when Lord Holme was asking that question of the BBC. I just wondered what you thought of how they approach this whole business of choosing what is significant and crucial and whether you agree with that or whether you could add anything.

  Ms Campbell: In terms of the sports, any television coverage is crucial because it can add massive value. It might not be crucial to the BBC but it most certainly is crucial to sport. It is this balance between providing a wide magazine type opportunity for people as described to go into different activities and sports, where we can excite different people's interests, which is obviously a huge part of the role that we would want the public broadcast body to play; and at the same time being able to capture the audiences to justify some of the outside broadcast costs they end up incurring. That is the reality for them. We talk about covering events. I used to commentate for the BBC on netball. I used to do an annual netball thing from Wembley. The vast numbers of people, the vans that appeared and the huge technology used to bewilder me. That is why they are the best in the world but best in the world is not cheap. When they do outside broadcasting, it is expensive. As a business they have to balance that cost against audience numbers that justify to their own board why they are going somewhere and not somewhere else. From our point of view, we would love to see them keep pushing those boundaries. In the run up to Athens they did a very good job. I think they covered 20 of the 28 Olympic sports through Grandstand which did excite and interest people and absolutely generated better coverage at the Games. We would hope we can use the next six years to do the same thing. I think their coverage of the Paralympics is leagues ahead of anybody else in the world and they have helped to really bring very positive, exciting images of people with a whole range of disabilities achieving fantastic things.

  Q305  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: Do you think there is an adequately diverse and varied range? In other words, is it stretching far enough to meet what you are looking at?

  Ms Campbell: I joined the Women's Sports Foundation to help them talk to the BBC about the issues around covering women's sports because there is not a huge amount of coverage of women's sport. They are looking at ways of making the coverage of the sports they do more women friendly and they are also looking at some of the wider issues. We have similar issues around cultural diversity and ethnicity. We tend to broadcast in a way which speaks to a certain type of person. Does it speak to all the population of this country? Is it truly multicultural in its presentation and is it truly diverse enough? Probably not, but there are not many public sector bodies that are able to do that as effectively as we would want them to. It is a challenge the BBC have to keep accepting. They must communicate effectively with everyone in our communities if we are truly going to use sport as a vehicle to drive some of the change we want to see.

  Q306  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: You accepted the challenge that you would have a go at defining sport, coming back to the minority aspect. I hear what your main interest is, in getting the younger generation involved and interested and perhaps also as a result away from other less desirable activities and that is hugely important. On the other hand, we are facing an ageing population and there are costs to be saved by keeping them involved. I can always remember being thoroughly amused at coming back to bridge to find there was some research which showed that, by playing bridge, you improved your immune system. With these thoughts in mind, you can see where I am coming from. Do you take any account of the older population, those less able to move about but equally enjoying what they regard as sport? Your definition would be interesting.

  Ms Campbell: UK Sport's remit is world class success. We do not directly do that but Sport England, the Sports Councils for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are all very committed to not only sport but physical activity, engaging people in healthy, active lifestyles. That is about engaging people in a whole range of activities that we might not categorise as pure sport—walking, rambling, hiking, biking, caving, canoeing, anything that gets people active and engaged. We are facing a massive health issue with our younger generation. It is just waiting to explode on us. We have a huge job to do to engage people in active lifestyles, unlike when you and I were younger, being active as part of the way we grew up. That is not true. You only have to look at a playground in a school to see that children do not run about any more. They stand still and, preferably, they are sitting inside. Getting people active is now something we have to rebuild back into people's lifestyles.

  Q307  Lord King of Bridgwater: What has come out of your evidence is the huge asset that the BBC can be and if they cover sport it gives it a whole new impetus. If they stop covering sport, there is a decline. I think we were talking about squash and that is what happened there, but what about Channel 4, ITV, Sky and the roles that they can play? Do you have much of a relationship with them?

  Ms Campbell: I think we have a pretty good relationship with all of those people. Our job is not to select one partner here; it is to recognise that the BBC is a public service broadcaster and work as closely with them as we can to ensure that what they do broadcast really adds value to our commitment to improve sport in this country. We are also working closely with Sky and other people to look at how we can add value through the work they are doing. Sky, for example, at the moment are putting £1 million a year into a programme which is using sport to tackle behavioural issues in schools. There are real connections there that mean we are looking to reinvest some of the money they are earning back in.

  Q308  Lord King of Bridgwater: They are not the only ones who have a public service obligation. You talked rather as though the BBC were the only ones who have.

  Ms Campbell: I am sorry. I do not mean that. Because you are talking about the BBC charter, I guess I am very focused on the BBC. We have a communications team that builds very good relationships with broadcasters and journalists.

  Q309  Lord King of Bridgwater: The overall judgment is, while you work with the others, you look to the BBC as an essential role?

  Ms Campbell: Absolutely. Whilst we would like to continue to chivvy to move them in many of the directions your questions would indicate, we value them and think they have a significant role to play.

  Q310  Lord Maxton: Can I come back to the participation of the elderly? Do you actively encourage elite veterans? Would you agree that the London Marathon on television is a much more significant sporting event for the general fitness of the nation than Chelsea playing Arsenal in the Cup Final? I can look at Chelsea playing Arsenal and know that I will never be there but I can look at the London Marathon and see people older than me running in it and maybe one day I might run in it. I have a brother who is two years younger than me and he will run his fourth London Marathon next year. Surely that is where participation matters. Would you list the London Marathon?

  Ms Campbell: Nick Patel, who is the chairman of the London Marathon, sits on our board at UK Sport and I think they do a terrific job. They have grown that to be one of the major sporting events in the world, not just in London. It is completely inspiring to see people in their very strange, comical outfits jogging along or even walking along at the back. If Sport England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were sitting here, they would say to you that they want to galvanise and support more of that and encourage more people to get active.

  Q311  Lord Maxton: Showing it on the BBC is what is important.

  Ms Campbell: Absolutely.

  Q312  Chairman: On the acquisition of sports rights, you talked very sensibly about the balance between maximum audience and maximum income, but do you think that this is really essentially not a decision for you; it is a decision for the governing bodies in sports?

  Ms Campbell: It has to be because at the end of the day it is their business. As UK Sport, we are a public funder. We are an investor in those sports. We invest with a very clear purpose and very clear targets, but we do not run those sports and nor should we. They have governing bodies of their own. They are managed independently. We can influence and I think we do influence where we can. We have greater leverage to influence some rather than others, but our job is to influence, guide and support.

  Q313  Chairman: How do you influence?

  Ms Campbell: It depends whether they are dependent on us for grants in aid. It gives us greater leverage than if they are not.

  Q314  Chairman: We assume that the Football League and the Football Association are not?

  Ms Campbell: They come under our auspices from 1 April but even so we would never be able to invest them in a way which would lever significantly. What we can do though is work to influence and support. That is what our job should be as a public sector investor.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. You have been very clear and your evidence has been quite excellent. If we have any other points, perhaps we can come back to you.

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