I was having a think the other day about televised sport and in particular – free to air televised sport. I have a very limited interest in football any more and sports like rugby, cricket and even track based athletics have never held my attention for long periods. However, my boss introduced me to the crown in Scotland’s TV sporting output – The Adventure Show.
The Adventure Show looks at the best eventing north of the border that’s just a little more obscure, a little on the wild side and a genuine contender for ‘crowd pleaser of the year’.
Why do I mention this? Well, I want to see the same thing down here on the BBC (or other terrestrial option) proper. I’ve got nothing against cookery programmes, DIY shows and pricey period romps but think about a show dedicated to mountain biking, ultra running, sky running, orienteering, kayaking, triathlon, coasteering, OCR and all the other things we, as adventurers, want to see more of.
The BBC Trust found in their own research that …members told us that audiences across the UK think the BBC’s services are performing well. However, Councils suggested that more television programmes made by BBC Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be broadcast on the national networks
However, according to an analysis published in the Radio Times, ‘£35 million will be cut from the BBC Sport rights fund, and with several deals set to end soon, that means much-loved terrestrial sports could go.’
We’ve already seen a steady decline in sporting coverage over the years on terrestrial TV as sport has become bigger and bigger financially and Murdoch has moved almost everything to a pay for view model. Therefore BBC and other terrestrial options have focused on the gala events such as the Olympics and then exploited them with over-analysis and spread ideas thinly – glossing them over as bonus content. But maybe there could be a shake-up in strategic thinking and this could in part be by looking at what our country is actually doing and bringing them some of that.
I was looking at the list of what the BBC currently holds and what they’ve given up/lost (Wikipedia not necessarily the font of all knowledge I grant you), which you can see here but it provides an interesting insight to the focus of BBC Sport. There’s a lot of sport, especially in the radio coverage, but very little that crosses those boundaries between sport, entertainment and real adventuring people, not parodies of real people like ‘Total Wipeout’.
My idea would be to bring real sporting people to the fore, much like the Adventure Show does. I can imagine a piece of programming which follows the adventures of people like @abradypus or @borleyrose – dedicated hours of television where adventure was the key, not just running, but everyday people being brilliant. Think of it as an outdoor double bill being paired with Countryfile.
The UK is currently in a golden era of adventuring – you only need to look through social media to see the kind of insane stuff that people are getting up to – shouldn’t we be promoting this? Let’s also remember that BBC Trust research found that, ‘77% of audiences thought that fresh ideas were important but that only 61% thought the BBC had fresh ideas’. Time for a fresh look at what you’ve already got and how that could be further improved?
It’s a simple idea that might give BBC sport a return to credibility with real people at a fraction of the cost of your sporting crown jewels. I’m not saying we get rid of the Olympics, football, athletics or our once a year fascination with tennis but these things are all riddled with scandal, financial irregularities and cheating – why not look at sports that are a little more niche on the outside but infinitely more inclusive on the inside.
Trust me BBC (ITV, C4 and Five) watching Susie Chan at the MdS or Cat Simpson crossing the Atacama or James Elson winning Country to Capital will make for compelling viewing. It harks back to a time when the BBC had programmes like Kickstart, minority sports that today would be considered cool – believe me, bikes crossing wet and slippy logs inspired me to a life more extreme!
It’s not just that though, I’ve written previously about struggling to connect with sporting ‘celebrities’ and I don’t believe this is just me. As a nation we aren’t as fit as we should be and I wonder if a programme such as this would help in the promotion of wellbeing – not focusing on the elite and instead focusing on ‘those that do’. Inspiring equally real people to engage in sport.
I’d like an adventuring show that looked at costs, promoted the best of low-cost adventuring to ensure this didn’t become the equivalent of a Top Gear, that while entertaining, was well beyond the reach of mortal men. I’d like to see kit explored, nutrition, attitudes to the psychology of sport and other nuggets that could provide a gateway to exploration for everyone. Of course at the heart of it I’d want to see entertaining, breathtaking adventuring with gob-smacking scenery.
For those of us who’ve watched The Adventure Show (I do it via iplayer as we don’t get it in London – do we Beeb??!!) I think we can see it’s not made for a million pounds an episode! This stuff is happening regardless of whether you televise it or not so maybe you should get more involved. To the BBC especially, you’re a public service broadcaster and while I think you do a brilliant job with the resources you have I believe sport needs a rethink.
Come on Beeb, come adventuring with us and bring the nation with you! Get in touch with Triple Echo Productions and see if they fancy extending the Adventure Show nationwide! Or talk to the ever growing adventuring community and see for yourself the potential of joining us outside.
As an aside, if you aren’t going with thought number one can you at least dump the London Marathon and Great North Run from the schedule and replace it with some less charity focused races! I’m a bit sick of the celebrity and fancy dress focus of the coverage.