Having yesterday posted to the Rust on the subject of boxing and then a broadcasting cock-up during Radio Five Live’s celebratory coverage on the 50th anniversary of England’s 1966 soccer World Cup win, I had not expected to be back against quite as soon as today.
Nevertheless, I find myself doing so because of another broadcasting cock-up by the BBC, this time during its ‘live’ television coverage of the new annual institution of cycling’s 100-mile RideLondon race/fun event, which begins and ends in central London.
To be honest, cycling is not my ‘bag’ (or even one of them) and so I had fallen into watching said coverage in the late afternoon whilst reading the Sunday newspapers and dipping into a new book on the Battle of Waterloo that I had bought a few months back.
That registered, I was quite enjoying the coverage of the leafy suburbs, the infamous Box Hill ascent, the Surrey countryside and then the familiar sights of Wimbledon village and Putney Hill as Geraint Thomas (of Team Sky), having broken free about 20 miles previously, acted as the hare (leading by about 2 minutes) on the way towards the finishing straight ahead a group of five pursuing cyclists who were about another 2 minutes ahead of the peloton.
For about half an hour, the result seemed settled, the event done and dusted. Thomas maintained his lead over the pursing group and the peloton had seemingly gone to sleep. One novelty of the coverage was a pundit in motorcycle gear sitting on the back of a motorcycle giving a blow by blow account of proceedings behind the motorcycle rider at the helm. The pair of them raced back and forth between the peloton and the pursuing group and then occasionally up to where Thomas had reached… and then dropped back again. In my experience it was a welcome new approach to cycling coverage and the speed at which the motorcycle demonstrated the gap between (for example) the pursuing group and Thomas, which by then had come down to about 1 minute 40 seconds, simply by speeding up and going forward to the latter was a graphic way of conveying just how fast these guys were cycling to the viewer at home.
Then suddenly, somewhere around the top of Putney Hill, the mood changed. Suddenly the peloton ‘woke up’ and began to turn on the power and heat. They were catching the pursuing group fast. And the pursuing group was also catching the leader Thomas.
It was all building to a terrific climax. Could Thomas keep going and win, i.e. before he was overhauled by either the coming pursuing group or even the peloton?
Even this viewer had put down his Sunday supplement and leaned forward to see what unfolded.
The only thing was … he never got to see the real denouement. And nor did any other viewer.
Suddenly, about the bottom of Putney Hill, before the bridge, the BBC ‘lost its pictures’ from the road. They had wide-angled camera positions all down the route, of course, and could show the waiting crowd all round Trafalgar Square and the Mall … all day, if they wished.
But suddenly they had effectively ‘lost’ all coverage of what was actually happening on the road – i.e. in the cycling race – from Putney until just before Admiralty Arch and the Mall (in other words, they could only now show the last 600 metres of the race).
All the TV commentators could do was relay what they were hearing on telephone from various reporters along the route:
“… Sorry about the loss of pictures, but we’re hearing that the peloton has now caught the pursuing group …”
“… And now we’re hearing another report that the peloton has caught both the pursuing group and Geraint Thomas …”
Subsequently, we saw pictures from the Mall of a series of police cars, police motorcyclists and official race cars coming round a corner into sight, followed by a mass bunched peloton, clearing preparing itself for an all-out sprint finish.
Which we did see.
After Saturday’s cock-up over the 1966 Henry Cooper fight with Muhammed Ali, this was the second broadcasting disaster in two days for the BBC.
As I said in my post yesterday – or at least meant to – such things can happen randomly and out of the blue to anyone.
However, ‘back in my day’, research tended to be done properly by dint of natural ability and/or sheer graft. And back then also, you could just about make allowance for ‘Act of God’ camera foul-ups because all equipment (though state of the art for its time) was still relatively primitive.
In 2016, however, there is practically no excuse I could possibly think of that should have allowed a ‘live’ sports programme effectively to lose its pictures of the very track on which the sporting action it was supposedly covering, as happened yesterday at the cycling.
Wake up, BBC! Get your act together!
See here for a link to a report on yesterday’s debacle on the website of THE GUARDIAN