by Cormac Campbell
This time around Cormac takes a look TV coverage of the World Championships and glances an eye over Frank Warren’s new Boxing TV station BoxNation
Ireland is doing pretty well in two World Championships at the moment – perhaps an endorsement of the effectiveness of all-island sporting structures.
However, the coverage of one of these events by Northern TV stations BBC NI and UTV leaves a lot to be desired.
On the day three Irish boxers qualified for the Olympics, UTV inexplicably failed to pick up the story on their main teatime news. By comparison BBC NI only confirmed that one boxer, Michael Conlan from Belfast, had qualified.
I’m not sure which is worse – to not realise the significance of athletes qualifying for the biggest sporting event in the world or to only report part of the story, for what appears to be purely parochial reasons.
It is of course understandable and justifiable that a Belfast based channel would lead their boxing report with Conlan’s qualification – but to leave Darren O’Neill and John Joe Nevin out for the apparent reason that they are from the Republic is outrageous. Imagine if the same standard was introduced to Irish rugby coverage? There would, quite rightly, be uproar.
What’s worse is that Nevin, who has qualified for his second Summer Games and has picked up yet another major medal, is based in Cavan.
To put this in context – it is like BBC NI not mentioning fellow Ulsterman Tommy Bowe’s achievements because he is from Monaghan.
This is not a question of expense, this is just a call for realisation in mainstream media newsrooms that boxing fans, whether they are from the North or South, or are from a Nationalist or Unionist background support and compete for the Irish boxing team. As such, they will want to know about the achievements of all the boxers, whether they are from Bangor or Ballymun. And since boxing is Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport, it isn’t too much to ask that due recognition be given on news bulletins.
At least the BBC website manages to spell Conlan’s name correctly. Virtually every other mainstream media outlet has it spelt ‘Conlon’ – hardly surprising given that this is the spelling that the IABA itself uses for the SJB man in press releases.
I’m in two minds about the recent launch of a dedicated boxing channel in the UK. As a dyed in the wool boxing fan a subscription is obviously something that interests me. But on the other hand I have concerns that such a venture – ironically if successful – could lead to the marginalisation of the sport.
When I was training to be a journalist a number of years ago I wrote an essay discussing the pros and cons of dedicated news channels.
The pros included extra space for journalists to explore in greater depth a wider range of issues and events, with increased budgets as well as giving viewers the luxury of watching the news at a time that suited them.
On the flip side, it was argued that by pushing news and current affairs onto a dedicated channel there was a risk that there would be a reduction in such programming on mainstream channels and by virtue of this ‘new viewers’ would not be exposed to the type of information that has a bearing on every aspect of their lives. The same could apply to boxing, whereby the more exclusive the broadcast platform, the less casual viewers that will see the sport. In essence, established boxing fans are not at risk – new fans are.
To combat this problem I would like to see boxing boards becoming more proactive in working with promoters and television companies to develop and promote the concept of monthly highlights packages for terrestrial TV. After all, it has been well proven that the public has to know a boxer before they will invest in him.