Should BBC Neutrality Take a Back Seat During London 2012?

August 7, 2012 12:53 pm

Is this an example of the rule book being torn up when it comes to the BBC and their rules of neutrality?

Ever since the spectacular opening ceremony that was masterminded by Danny Boyle, the whole of the country seems to have got behind Team GB. Everywhere you go, your eyes are drawn to people sporting Team GB t-shirts, bags and caps, while most shops in high streets up and down the land are displaying Union flags in their windows. This support for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at London 2012 is unprecedented and undoubtably helped by their continued success in the Olympic Games. The continuation of the form that was exhibited in Beijing four years ago seems to have rekindled the publics enthusiasm for Team GB. As a GB fan, it is satisfying to see that the Olympic broadcaster in the UK, the BBC, has focused their main attention on this country’s contingent while also keeping an eye on how other country’s are performing in the games. The Olympic Games can be a huge source of inspiration for future athletes and no doubt that thousands of people enjoy Team GB doing so well, thus far, in the London games.

The neutrality of BBC presenters has traditionally been a source of hot debate with report after report being commissioned to investigate whether or not the BBC are still towing the line. It is of course understandable that the BBC should be neutral when covering serious news since it is funded by the tax payer and not the subject of one persons will alone. That point almost goes without saying. However, should BBC Sport, when covering huge sporting events such as the Olympic Games still have to worry about receiving criticism from people over whether they are supporting Team GB too  much? It seems logical that BBC Sport presenters and pundits have a soft spot for Team GB members and it would hardly cause offence if they want to express their views on air. After all, sport is, or at least should be, a-political, and therefore should not cause offence if one person decides to side with Team GB more than other nations.

The BBC Sport reports by journalists such as David Bond have, it has to be said, neutral in their content and have still managed to get their points across, but it is refreshing to see that some of the BBC Sport presenters and pundits almost throwing the rule book out of the window and supporting Team GB out right. As a TV viewer, you feel more connected to the action on the screen if the presenters and pundits are supporting the same side as you. It is therefore frustrating to see comments on Monday by Simon Kelner, former editor of The Independent, on Twitter complaining about the neutrality of the BBC. For one , the clips of Colin Jackson getting over exited when Mo Farah won his 10,000 final a few days ago was entertaining and probably reflected what the vast majority of the country who were watching those moments were doing as well.

A public broadcaster must surely be able to reflect the public mood and that is exactly what BBC Sport seem to be doing during these Olympic Games. The strict rules concerning BBC neutrality are important for sure, but during a huge sporting event like the Olympic Games, should the BBC be forced to stick to these rules?

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  • People would be complaining even more if our BBC ladies and gents weren’t showing their enthusiasm; “it’s the British Broadcasting Company and we’re not showing support for Team GB?” It would be bizarre. Sod the neutrality for this two weeks, we are proud to be British, they are proud to be British and nobody should have to hold back when we’re performing as we are on the world stage!

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