BBC criticised over Winter Paralympics TV plans


BBC criticised over Winter Paralympics TV plans

The BBC is facing mounting criticism over its plans to offer no live coverage of the Winter Paralympics on any of its four TV channels.

The BBC has boasted that it will offer 160 hours of TV coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, which last until 28 February.

But it has no plans for any live TV coverage or daily highlights programmes on its four channels during the Paralympic Winter Games – taking place between March 12 and March 21 at the same venues.

The only live coverage planned is through its website and the digital TV “red button” – and only if the British wheelchair curling team makes it through to the medal rounds – despite genuine British medal contenders in both ski-ing and curling.

There will also be a one-hour highlights programme the day after the Games end, on BBC Two.

Gordon Neale, director of events for the English Federation of Disability Sport, said the BBC’s decision was “absolutely ridiculous” and called for it to change its plans.

Dan Burden, head of public affairs for the Spinal Injuries Association, also criticised the BBC and said the decision was a missed opportunity to encourage disabled people to take up winter sports.

He said: “It’s a great opportunity to showcase that wheelchair sports or disabled sports are not just limited to the marathon and that they are as diverse as non-disabled sports.”

John Stone, coach for the Welsh Wheelchair Curling Association, whose organisation had hoped to win new members through TV coverage, said he was disappointed by the BBC’s decision.

He said: “We were certainly hoping to pick up prospective wheelchair curlers from the publicity we were hoping to get from TV.”

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won 12 Paralympic athletics gold medals, and has worked for the BBC as a commentator, was also “disappointed”.

She said she understood the BBC’s decision because of the costs, but added: “It doesn’t make it right.”

And she suggested that members of Britain’s winter Paralympic squad should link up with their summer colleagues to find out how they managed to improve TV coverage.

She said: “For me it is about how we raise the profile of the winter athletes through the year.”

The BBC has blamed “budget restrictions and the time zone factor” for its decision, but this week refused to comment further, despite the mounting criticism.

18 February 2010

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