Media watch: good, bad, and off the reservation

June 17, 2012 Tags: , , Reads 13 comments

The competition on the pitch at Euro 2012 has been fierce, sometimes more than a little dramatic and, yes, refreshingly attacking. About time after the negativity of World Cup 2010 in South Africa, where defences ruled and entertainment failed. While the distances between games at the Euros has sometimes been significant, travel notoriously difficult and hotels rabidly expensive, the tournament has largely taken place against a positive backdrop, incidents of racism and violence in the streets excepted.

Yet, while the football has been predominantly high-quality, and the atmosphere mostly positive, the same cannot always be said for the UK’s broadcasters; Sky’s normally outstanding Premier League coverage having been replaced for three weeks by the best on offer from the UK’s free-to-air channels.

After the distance, and not inconsiderable expense, of outside broadcast across 10 South Africa cities two years ago, how would BBC and ITV approach the logistically difficult tournament? Reluctantly, it seems.

Gone are the stunning vistas of South Africa, replaced in ITV’s case with a semi-permanent on-site studio built in an attractive, if modest, Warsaw square. The back-drop is no Table Mountain, but Warsaw’s National Stadium has sat, colourfully lit for most of the week, just over pundit Roy Keane’s right shoulder.

ITV’s studio is a modern effort, wrapped in edge-to-edge glass, if lacking any obvious tie to the domestic audience, given that England’s base in Krakow is some 300 kilometres south, and all group games hundreds more east in Ukraine. It’s unfortunately tragi-comic – born of the broadcaster’s logistical planning more than two years in the making. At least presenter Adrian Chiles has been kept honest by a stream of old town late-night revellers.

The BBC, meanwhile, stung by criticism of its extravagant £2 million Cape Town base at the previous World Cup – that of the awesome Table Mountain landscape – has retrenched into a minimalist Salford studio, replete with no vista at all, save for levitating computer-generated team graphics. This, in a time of austerity conscious penny-pinching, is the price of keeping the Daily Mail onside it seems. Still, critics might still point to the £70 million cost of broadcast rights, split between BBC and ITV.

What the Beeb has lacked in outside broadcast atmosphere the organisation has attempted to fill with an extensive roster of pundits. Accused of a back-slapping know-it-all-yet-deliver-little attitude at the World Cup, Aunty has employed a plethora of managers and ex-players to fill in the knowledge gap. Match of the Day could do with the same refresh.

Not that the core team has been knocked back, with Mark Lawrenson and Alan Shearer on location, and Alan Hansen and Lee Dixon joined by lead presenter Gary Linekar back in Salford. Melancholy’s Lawrenson, who’s knowing inner-pain has tormented the viewing public for nigh-on two decades, has taken up co-commentator duties alongside BBC regulars Guy Mowbray, Jonathan Pearce, and Simon Brotherton.

While Lawrenson suffers on our behalf, Shearer has been offered a new lease-of-life pitchside with the likeable Jake Humphrey. Stripped of the replay monitor, the former Newcstle United striker has been pressed into delivering something other than the bland descriptive – it has almost, if not quite, approached insight. Beeb producers take note.

In the other half of the draw, the choleric Martin Keown has occasionally been joined by former England ‘keeper David James for the BBC. It’s an eclectic mix, with retired ‘keeper James sharp-witted and smartly dressed, to Keown’s wild-eyed morose. It has shown too, with James struggling to contain his frustration at Keown’s unremittingly downbeat stream-of-consciousness.

Had Linekar the wherewithal, after years stuck on the sofa with Lawrenson, he might have been tempted to throw himself out of a Media City studio window; a martyr to the media cause. Except the studio is windowless – a cocooned mausoleum to Lawro’s pain.

Meanwhile, back in the BBC studio former Dutch international Clarence Seedorf has offered a relaxed counter-balance to Hansen’s highly-strung, serial-killer intensity. Seedorf is so laid-back that mere consciousness itself is seemingly an affront to his endless powers of relaxation.

It is not often that ITV out-does it’s publicly funded sibling, but it might just be the case despite the desperately try-hard Chiles doing his level best to cheapen the coverage. There’s chummy, and then there’s Chiles, who’s efforts universally grate over the course of a late afternoon to evening.

Meanwhile, in the commentary box Andy Townsend continues his one-man campaign to ‘end passing’, while Clive Tyldesley struggles on without any obvious link to that night in Barcelona with which to fill dead air.

Yet, on the pundit’s sofa ITV has hit the winning note, pairing off Keane, with his erstwhile rival on the pitch, Patrick Vieira, and the solid, if humdrum, Gareth Southgate. Joining on the suspiciously ethnic-looking cushions – surely a hand-me-down from the World Cup – is the excitable Roberto Martinez, who is both engaging and insightful, while Gordon Strachan remains as spiky as ever.

And the broadcaster struck gold with Jamie Carragher, who’s refreshing honesty chimes the right note, even if the scouse inflection is all-too-painful on the ears.

Yet it is with Keane, the former Manchester United midfielder and captain, that ITV scores the winning runs. Keane, painfully honest and intense, was described by one national magazine of ‘going feral’ this week such is the Irishman’s demented scowl. Like David Brent, Keano is best viewed from behind the safety of the sofa.

Not least if you’re an Irishman, with Keane saving his most delicious barbs for his fellow countrymen. While others praised an Irish support that ran to 20,000, Keane refused to tow a party line, chiding a stunned Chiles that “it’s nonsense to say how great the fans are. The players and supporters have to change their mentality. Let’s not just go along for the sing-song every now and again.”

Mind you, Keane once promised he would never take the easy punditry pound. Good for ITV’s Euro 2012 coverage that he did. Unsafe perhaps for the “bemused onlooker” Vieira who’s safety cannot be guaranteed should Keane go fully off reservation.


Stevie D - June 17, 2012 Reply

Haha, love the Clive Tyldesley reference! I imagine he has turned a room at home into a shrine dedicated to that night in Barcelona, ala Jed Maxwell from I’m Alan Partridge.

Alfonso Bedoya - June 17, 2012 Reply

I disagree about Keane… he is a fuckin bellend… I don’t care how honest he THINKS he’s being… he’s being a miserable cunt, just for the sake of it… if he were really honest, then he’d admit that the Irish team is just not that good, and accept that 20,000 fans behaving themselves, and supporting their team with honour and enthusiasm, and most importantly, having a good time… is really what it’s really all about.
Great fans, doing their team, and country proud… and Keane would turn them into a bunch of rabid, pissy, shit heads like he is.

“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

Ed - June 17, 2012 Reply

Alf – oh yeah, he’s a total knob of a man. But it’s car crash TV at it’s best…

sidney - June 17, 2012 Reply

The BBCs no commentary option is the best thing about this tournament

squigs - June 17, 2012 Reply

Alfonso Bedoya said:
I disagree about Keane… he is a fuckin bellend… I don't care how honest he THINKS he's being… he's being a miserable cunt, just for the sake of it… if he were really honest, then he'd admit that the Irish team is just not that good, and accept that 20,000 fans behaving themselves, and supporting their team with honour and enthusiasm, and most importantly, having a good time… is really what it's really all about.
Great fans, doing their team, and country proud… and Keane would turn them into a bunch of rabid, pissy, shit heads like he is.

No, he has told some home truths. Misinterpreted by Irish press, Irish fans accuse Keane of having a go at them. Players such as Shay Given who have been awful give Keane back stick. Keane's allies such as Eamon Dunphy give him stick. Keane responds in an article today and he is still spot on. The whole win or lose we are on the beer attitude is ridiculous and shouldn't be used as an excuse for what has been a poor showing thus far.
This great fans malarky about Ireland irks me. At best it's incorrect and at worst it's incredibly patronising. We don't sell out our own qualifiers at which you can hear a pin drop. But gather up the bandwagon once we are in Poland. These fans who have been to about 2 games in the last 10 years roll on out suddenly a few minutes of singing and the nation has gone into overdrive about how we have been the best fans at the competition. Self praise is no praise and deflects both from just how poor the team has been and how expectations took over themselves.
The Irish have an incredible ability to jump on the bandwagon and it very much evident across any sport in Ireland.
Keanes points about the team believing their own hype have been spot on. Losing to teams of the ability of Croatia and Spain is acceptable but not the embarrassing nature of the performances shouldn't be accepted.
Players like Kevin Doyle certainly were linked with Liverpool and Arsenal and now they can't get games at relegated Wolves. These players have lost all club form and weren't going to suddenly rediscover it at against such esteemed opposition.
Ireland man for man are probably no better nor worse then Greece and look what they accomplished.
Keane behind it all is having a go at the FAI, whose CEO John Delaney in particular. Delaney is a man on €400k a year which is a hefty % of some top league teams budgets in Ireland. He has been on the tear for two weeks out with the fans drinking real man of the people stuff and it's laughable. He talks about how the abiding memory of the tournament is how great the fans have been. No the abiding memory so far is 1 goal scored and 7 conceded. This isn't amateur sport this is professional sport and the Irish players have let themselves and the manager down.
Pic is him last week, the FA are wankers but they are so unprofessional by comparison.

Alfonso Bedoya - June 18, 2012 Reply

Well, I’m not going to argue with an Irishman about how he feels about his team… but personally, I think a bit of perspective is important here… Keane may have a point or two, regarding the results, if he really believes the players were capable of better performances… but then he goes on to slate half the team for not being good enough to begin with… so why is he surprised, or pissed off that they didn’t do very well?

And I still don’t understand what his point was about the fans… they got drunk, they sang songs, they supported their team… they enjoyed themselves… and they did it, without causing an ounce of trouble.

What’s there to complain about?

There are fans at this tournament, who’ve brought nothing but shame on their countries… from what I saw, the Irish have been great…

But then, I’m not Irish, so what do I know?

squigs - June 18, 2012 Reply

To be honest your probably right here, yes peoples expectations were inflated from qualifying despite Ireland been fairly poor throughout qualifying, even the poorer teams such as Armenia passed Ireland off the park. Keane when ranting is a conundrum, I think his belief is the players believed their own hype and lists players such as Kevin Doyle. Doyle who is known to be very much down to earth both on and off the pitch.

The issue with the fans is as a collective we still seem to have a mentality of win or lose we are on the beer and are just happy to be here. This support I suppose is coming from Keane if anything is a perfectionist and this is a gripe with him, it was gripe with him when he played for Ireland and now from the comfort of his armchair he is firing off more abuse. I was more annoyed by Irish people praising themselves as amongst the top fans in the world when we only came close to selling out one home qualifier for Euro 2012 (I was at them all)

I think as well the media have played up what Keane said exactly. He stated that the fans would rather see us win some games which we would and I think the media linked his attack to the fans instead of the players who deserve criticism in particular the bigger stars such as Robbie Keane, Dunne and Given who have all been really poor the last 2 games.

Again I must stress the manager deserves no stick, getting some of these players to a finals tournament is a huge achievement and he has been a huge success, I disagree with his loyalty to some very ordinary players but he has had the results up to now.

Ben Hulston - June 18, 2012 Reply

Adrian Chiles and his mumbling, ABU, moronic verbal diarrhoea are an abhorrence on television screens. How in the bejebus did he ever get a job hosting ANYTHING. I would really quite enjoy watching Keano batter him into a bloody broken puddle of brummie mong.

Newton Heath RED - June 18, 2012 Reply

Keane is the worlds angriest man…. did anyone else hear Stracham having a dig at him during the storm that postponed the France Ukraine game? Hilarious

sidney - June 21, 2012 Reply

I agree that ITV have got one over the BBC by broadcasting from an outside studio that you mentioned in the pod. But the Beeb are terrified of another Daily Mail Table Top Mountain gate/Sachs gate. and an army of Tory politicians chomping at the bit to sell parts of it off to their mates… the main one being none other than the Daily Mail owner himself who, when not donating to the tory party, and pretending he’s French for tax purposes, chairs a monsterous media conglomerate that has a stake in ITN/ITV; the Beebs main rival and the company Cameron used to work for. Booyah
So because of all this bullshit we have to make do with a soulless studio and the dull tones of Alan Shearer who refuses to move his mouth when he talks

Just1n - June 21, 2012 Reply

Here in South Africa we have Gary Bailey, Sammy Kuffour and John Barnes amongst others. Barnes is a bit of a prick.

Alfonso Bedoya - June 21, 2012 Reply

No… Barnes is a lot of a prick.
At least 3 quarters of the length, and the whole of the bell end.
And a complete cunt as well.

“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

squigs - June 21, 2012 Reply

ITV before the Spain – Italy game seemed to be broadcasting from a cafe and asking people in the cafe for their opinion on Torres not starting.

Add your comment