BBC Olympics coverage sparks fury as Britons miss major Team GB moments

6 mins read

The BBC has been restricted over its coverage of this year’s games after Discovery Communications purchased the European rights to the 2018-2024 Olympics in 2016. The bid ousted challenges from members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) of which the BBC was a member.

However, the deal has led to the BBC being capped to only being able to show two live sporting feeds at any one time.

This led to crucial events being missed, sparking a large number of complaints.

Viewers who want to see more action must pay a subscription to Discovery, which paid £920million for all European Olympic rights until the end of the 2024 Games.

Moments that were missed included gold-medal favourite Adam Peaty’s swimming heat which did not appear on either main BBC channel for more than an hour after it had happened, although it was available live on iPlayer.

Damian Collins, former Chairman of the Commons, Digital, Culture and Media Sport Select Committee has written to the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom over the lack of coverage.

In his letter, he said the BBC “should not have traded the 2020 rights away”.

The Folkestone and Hythe MP also questioned in the letter the BBC’s coverage fulfils the listed events requirements, which state that the Olympics must have “full live coverage” by a free-to-air broadcaster.

Veteran Labour MP John Grogan, who has campaigned for reform of the UK’s public service broadcasting, said the coverage of the Olympics is “meant to be protected for all to enjoy.”

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The former chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on the BBC said it was important “for the young in particular to be inspired” from being able to watch the Olympics.

Mr Grogan, who served as MP for Keighley and Selby between 1997 and 2019, made clear a change in the law was needed to ensure a repeat of 2020 does not happen again.

He added: “So how have we got to a situation whereby the BBC only has the rights to show two live streams of action at a time from Tokyo with the rest of the sport hidden behind a paywall?

“In effect for the terrestrial viewer we have gone back to a style of coverage which was common prior to London in 2012 when, for the first time, viewers could stream live coverage of every sport simultaneously.

“Many people will be looking to our communications regulator [Ofcom] to enforce the law and do their best to make sure that every minute of the Olympics is available to viewers free-to-air once again in Paris.

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“If they do not, Parliament will need to strengthen the terms of the legislation.”

In response, a BBC spokesperson said: “As the BBC is no longer able to offer live streams of every sport we often have to make difficult decisions about which sports to show live and which to show on delay.

“Priorities may shift as live events unfold, and so, while we will do all we can to keep all viewers happy, we might need to jump in and out of sports to ensure we bring as many of the big moments as possible.

“The IOC sold the rights for the Olympics in 2022 and 2024 to Discovery and as a result we needed to carve out a comprehensive deal that ensured the Olympics remained on the BBC.

“We have secured an extensive offer for audiences that has already been watched by over 26 million people.”

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