Roy Keane takes care of the cups of tea amid the BBC whitewash
THE next few hours should see last night’s European Championship final confirmed as the most watched event in British television history and the real winners of this tournament can finally be revealed – the BBC.
An estimated 44 million people were expected for the final on both channels, with the Beeb edging its ITV rivals by an estimated factor of four viewers to one.
The real question was why?
The obvious answer, of course, is that society’s viewers aren’t bothered by the distraction of commercials, and as any TV executive will tell you in the age of frenzy and streaming, no one is ready to go. endure them.
But in terms of coverage, the “underdogs” wiped the ground with their establishment rivals.
“We are all England fans tonight,” said the BBC’s Gary Lineker seconds after the match opened.
“It’s fair to say we’re going to be biased and if you don’t like it… so be it.”
That pretty much set the tone for four hours of the kind of state-run propaganda that would have been more at home in the former Soviet Union or China.
For those of a certain age the Iraq War gave us their Propaganda Minister “Comical Ali”, the BBC featured “Comical Alan” although there is nothing vaguely funny about Shearer or of his fellow cheerleaders.
On a more serious note, nearly two hours before kick-off last night there were disturbing scenes outside, with the stadium locked after ticketless fans stormed the barriers. Half an hour before kick-off, the nation’s largest newspaper website had a story under the headline, “For God’s sake, behave!
To ITV presenter Mark Pougatch’s credit, he wasted no time reporting the incident, referring to “shameful scenes” and interviewing an eyewitness who gave a vivid account.
It was a drag on the one-day opener for which England – as we’ve been told, perhaps, every three minutes since Wednesday night – has waited 55 years, but it was a report appropriate and responsible for the facts.
The BBC? Lineker, Shearer, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard only mentioned it at halftime, at 9:04 p.m., almost exactly three hours after it happened.
And why should they? As Lineker himself said, he and his team were fans, not journalists.
There was also a mocking reference to the “Italian art of playing” from the company, but no mention of Raheem Sterling’s highly dubious penalty kick in the semi-finals.
All of this is going well and may have captured the vibe of large swathes of the country – if not the more than 10 million Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish who also helped pay the 1.36 million salary. Lineker’s pound sterling to the BBC last year – but if you were looking for something akin to balanced analysis, the Beeb was not the place for you.
It took 15 minutes before Lineker uttered the word “Italy” and 50 before there was anything resembling a look at the opposition. ITV responded with a report from jockey Frankie Dettori watching his compatriots – it might not have been BAFTA award-winning stuff, but at least they were trying.
Part of the problem was that the BBC had stolen a march on their rivals by bringing their pre-game show forward to 6:20 p.m., 10 minutes before ITV, leaving the Lineker team 100 minutes to complete – ad-free, of course.
Instead, ITV was one less classic example being more – an old adage in TV journalism – and had, in the eyes of many, won the “battle” with the Beeb anyway, before coverage even began. airing the classic “Italian Job” with Michael Caine in the afternoon.
As for the end of the day, ITV also conducted their pre-game interviews better than their rivals – Gabby Logan’s interviewees struggled to hear it and Gabriel Clarke simply conducted better discussions with “shared” targets, like Southgate and Sir Geoff Hurst, than the Beeb.
Not that they were perfect, of course. ITV was grappling with Ian Wright, who would have been more comfortable with the BBC, where he was before, but luckily as they did on Wednesday, ITV also had the sensitive analysis of Emma Hayes and Roy Keane’s neutrality. to compensate for that.
When, at halftime, ITV showed their commentators’ obligatory shot celebrating England’s goal wildly, the clip showed Keane scooping up cups of tea from the podium so they wouldn’t get knocked over.
Just before kick-off, Lineker and his pals had joined the Wembley crowd signing “Sweet Caroline” … at the same time, Wright was doing the same on ITV, with Keane watching with a mixture of disdain and embarrassment. . Many viewers would have felt the same.
“It’s gorgeous,” Ferdinand shouted amid the impromptu karaoke. It was not, however, presumably, that most of the BBC’s estimated 36 million viewers would have agreed with him.