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Monday, February 24, 2014

The rugby director's fear of the wide shot

I watched a lot of rugby this weekend.

BT Sport’s coverage of the Aviva Premiership seems pretty good to me. On the other hand I find the BBC’s coverage of the Six Nations Championship increasingly irritating.

I understand that Wales v France in Cardiff and England v Ireland at Twickenham demand to be treated differently than London Irish against Leicester. The former are big national occasions. The latter’s just a sporting encounter.

I understand that you’ve got to go big on the build-up and the pyros and the anthems and the reaction shots. I understand that a lot of people tuning in are more interested in the occasion than the game.

Nonetheless the coverage of the other stuff shouldn’t be at the expense of the action. When you go to a big game you may be a long way from the action but at least you can see where the action is. It’s the single most important piece of information you need. There’s no point having a moody close-up of the scrum if you can’t see whereabouts on the pitch that scrum is taking place and how the two teams are lining up either side of it.

I tweeted about this during the Wales v France game and a TV director friend replied that the traditional watchword is “action is wide, replay is close”. This seems sensible. It wasn’t what the BBC seemed to be providing. When George North scored the first try he was out of shot because they were too busy focussing on the confusion of the French defenders. Later during this game and in the England match the following day the commentator had to tell us which line we were looking at because he knew that the shot was too tight for us to be able to work it out for ourselves. Then there are the penalties. In the post-Wilkinson era TV directors have become so enamoured of the curious rituals of goal kickers that they linger for whole minutes on their close-up of this process and leave us not knowing how difficult it is to score because we can’t see where they are on the pitch.

TV seems to believe that the closer it brings us to the action the more we understand. I don’t think so.