There are times when I wonder if government ministers have a clue as to why tv companies show what they do, other times I’m absolutely certain. The main reason that broadcasters show certain programmes is audience figures, whilst the state broadcaster has a certain leeway owing to its captive funding, even it drops items that not enough people want to watch.
New Culture Secretary Maria Miller has written to broadcasters urging them not to cut their coverage of women’s sport now London 2012 is over.
Mrs Miller said the success of Team GB’s female athletes had been truly inspirational.
The huge TV audiences showed the public had a real appetite for mainstream coverage of women’s sport, she added.
The BBC said it had a comprehensive portfolio of women’s sport and always looked at how to increase coverage.
Mrs Miller is the minister for women and equalities as well as Culture Media and Sport Secretary.
She said the British media did a fantastic job over the past few weeks championing the achievements of Jessica Ennis, Ellie Simmonds and other young women whom she said were powerful role models vital to delivering a sports legacy from the Olympics and Paralympics.
All very worthy I’m sure, however the Olympics are a showcase of the best of the best and broadcasters if they see a market for showing such coverage won’t need the encouragement of any minister in Westminster. What they will do is look at the figures, possibly try a few test broadcasts of some events and see whether the audience figures (plus advertising revenue) justify their outlay. If the figures stay high they’ll continue to broadcast, if they dip below a certain threshold then it’s a case of bye, bye we’ll try something else. That’s why you get endless ‘talent’ shows and soaps on the main channels, it’s what people as the audience figures show, want too watch.
The audience figures for the Olympics merely showed that people enjoyed watching the Olympics, they did not ‘prove’ that there is any great appetite for watching women’s sport or indeed the rather spectacular paralympic ‘murder’ ball rugby variant. Maria Miller seems to be using one set of figures to prove another point not seeing them for what they probably are.
I may be wrong on this of course and there very well might be a massive desire to watch women’s sport, I suspect however that the audience figures will be far lower than justifies the screening and with pretty much all broadcasters it’s a case of the customer is always right.