Time for action on county cricket commentary threat

Cricket lovers both domestically and across the world will be shocked and disappointed that coverage of county cricket by BBC local radio stations is set for a major reduction from the 2013 season.

Sport is currently covered seven days a week by many of the larger BBC local radio stations but it is now proposed to reduce this to just four hours on a Saturday afternoon from 2-6pm. This simply means the death-knell for domestic ball-by-ball cricket coverage on local stations.

The cost to the BBC of providing ball-by-ball coverage is approximately only £15-20K per county for the entire season. Currently, 11 county clubs have ball-by-ball coverage for all matches providing approximately 80 days per year, while the remaining seven first-class counties broadcast limited-overs games amounting to approximately 34 matches per season.

The majority of coverage is via the BBC website, but limited-over matches are transmitted by the normal FM/MW frequency. The audience has a very similar breakdown to that of Test Match Special – expats, students, retired people, those working from home and those that can listen in at the office or in their cars. The advance in mobile technology means that coverage is starting to reach new audiences, too.

Additionally, local radio broadcasts are opening new boundaries as e-mailers from around the world – some who have never seen a cricket match – log in to BBC Sport website commentaries.

One of the counties who enjoy full coverage on a daily basis during the season is Essex, whose audience extends to thousands of listeners during the season – virtually as many as would attend all matches across the season and certainly more on a daily basis than attend the LV= County Championship.

BBC Essex cricket commentator Dick Davies said: “It will obviously be a great shame if the county cricket commentary service is terminated as we know how much it is appreciated by many thousands of listeners worldwide.

“I’ve been commentating on the highs and lows of Essex for sixteen seasons and, from the e-mail response, it would appear that it is becoming increasingly popular with every season that passes. We try very hard to aim the style of commentary not just at cricket aficionados but also towards the casual listener who may have found us accidentally. In some respects we have become evangelists for the game as well as commentators!

“We are very much at the sharp but unglamorous end of sports broadcasting, following our teams wherever they go. It is a labour of love. Sometimes the long journeys home can be late into the evening when we’re tired, hungry and, if Essex have had a bad day, somewhat dispirited. But it’s worth it all because we love what we do and I think that comes across in the commentaries.

“Via their e-mail comments, the appreciative response from listeners is overwhelming and, on occasions, quite humbling: we know that we are conveying the atmosphere of a match, as well as the basic score information, to enthusiasts in every corner of the globe. It’s the e-mails from servicemen and women in areas of conflict abroad which probably give us the most satisfaction and the greatest sense of achievement.”

The existing radio/internet coverage of county cricket will continue next year, but is due to end after the 2012 season is completed in September. Under the current proposals there will no audio coverage of domestic cricket in the 2013 season and beyond.

Now, therefore, is the time for cricket fans to lobby the BBC for a drastic reconsideration of these plans.

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11 Responses to Time for action on county cricket commentary threat

  1. Ed Lamb says:

    Or could it be the time for the Counties to get together to find a seperate sponsor for county cricket radio coverage and take it on themselves? It’s a great pity the BBC don’t want to continue with this after 2012 but it doesn’t have to mean the end of County commentary….or at least certainly not until alternatives have been thoroughly looked into.

  2. Davefromluton says:

    Last year Northampton broadcast their ball by ball service for the blind via their website.
    Perhaps other counties could do the same – I’m sure most counties do have such a service.

  3. Howard Cole says:

    I’m sure some counties could manage to fund their own commentary but that’s missing the point. This is the very essence of public service broadcasting and has the ability to bring people from diverse backgrounds together like no other.

    Since it came about it has been the best innovation in local radio since I can recall. It must be retained.

  4. Paul Bird says:

    In Somerset the move to volunteer ball by ball commentary has already happened after BBC Somerset/Bristol cut back coverage some three years ago. At first it was via a link with the RNIB broadcasting to blind supporters through purpose built headsets but using the independent supporters site (Grockles.com) and the official club version to market it and streaming technology we extended that. By the next year we had our own FM band for the local Taunton area (blind spectators can now listen on their own radios in the ground and the town) and an internet audience of significant size. We now have 3 shifts of two commentators for each day of Championship cricket and volunteers able to cover whatever the BBC decides not to – tourist games etc. If the BBC decide to pull out then the format will carry on in the South West uninterrupted and we’ll just pick up the slack.

  5. James says:

    How do we lobby? Separately or via a petition?

  6. Jeremy says:

    Would it be possible for The Cricketer to host a ‘Which?’ style lobby for this BBC decision to be reversed?

  7. Len says:

    Shame, without County Cricket freely available on the television radio is a great way to introduce people to the game.

  8. Peter B says:

    In WA the ABC ( the Australian equivalent of the BBC) has ceased doing Sheffield Shield ball by ball coverage.

    The slack for WA has been picked up by a community FM station 91.3 Sport Radio. Now we also get WACA A grade club games broadcast.

    Suggest you have a look at their model and find a way to make it work for you

    These corporations are now up themselves so we should get away from them

  9. Paul says:

    I live in the Lancashire County Cricket Club bailiwick, an area covered by three BBC Local Radio stations Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside. I accessed the ball by ball commentary with increasing excitement on that day in September when Lancs finally won the Championship again via the Radio Lancs website. I can access all three by FM and MW have differing approaches to cricket and it is not just coverage of the County team that would suffer. I often listen during summer Sunday car journeys to ongoing reports from games from the various Lancashire Leagues.

    I play in the Liverpool Competition (which covers clubs from Colwyn Bay to Leigh to Lytham) which is covered by Radio Merseyside with a results round up on Sunday morning and a more in depth review/preview during the week. Admittedly active players/club members can access results via the internet but I am often stopped in the street (or more likely pub) to discuss my club’s performance by someone who has heard about it on Radio Merseyside. It used happen more often but local newspaper coverage, which previously included photographs and scorecards, now relies on reports submitted by the clubs. Radios Lancashire and Manchester also have extensive local cricket coverage. This would also appear to be lost with the changes at the BBC. Sad.

    On a slightly different note I used to be able to access the television signal from Wales and would often watch Glamorgan games on BBC2 Wales and S4C. This I can no longer do thanks to digitization.

  10. Davefromluton says:

    This is of course the same BBC that wants Ashes cricket returned to terrestrial TV.
    Hopefully the ECB has taken due note!

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