Game Of Two Halves

Clay Shooting Magazine recently explored the possibilities of televising different disciplines of shooting. Naturally, Skeet and Trap are more camera friendly than Sporting, but filming any kind of targets can be an emotionless and disengaging experience. A big Sporting shoot could flow more like a cricket match, taking place over several days, rather that something that can be easily packaged into a tidy three hour-long broadcast.

As we have seen with the World Cup, there is apparently no limit on the amount of air time that can be dedicated to any one sport; and while shooting will never rival football’s fan-base (nor throw up an head-to-head between Senegal and Japan), it can learn from its positive approach.

The CPSA have done well in introducing super finals at major championships, which provides a climax that could – given a growing fanbase – interest future investors and broadcasters. This makes it all the more frustrating when the hard work that goes into promoting the sport and the industry as a whole is undermined by the broadcasters who are needed to back it.

Its therefore good news when any type of shooting is given a positive reception in the media. On 22 March, Radio 4’s Farming Today broadcast an interview with the managing director of the newly formed British Game Alliance. Good news for the industry, except that it was immediately followed by a response from an an anti-shooting activist from the League Against Cruel Sports.

Though the cornerstone of professional journalism is offering objective views and presenting both sides of an argument, the Countryside Alliance highlighted two concerns with the Radio 4 programme. Firstly, the segment on the British Game Alliance was the only one during the programme in which opposing voice was heard. Further topics, including pig tail docking and neonicotinoid pesticides, both went unchallenged.

The CA also critisised the opposing comments coming from an organisation that is fundamentally against the existence of game shooting. The BBC Trust’s 2014 Impartiality Review identified that the BBC over-relies on a small set of protest groups to

provide comment on rural issues, turning all rural topics into binary arguments rather than helping listeners understand the subject. In doing this, the coverage of the BGA became about protest and conflict, undermining the discussions rather that promoting the benefits of game meats.

The Alliance complaints highlight the continued problems with rural coverage, and the clear bias in applying this approach to shooting issues and not other rural subjects.

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “We are increasingly concerned about the BBC’s handling of a number of rural issues and the widening disconnect between the BBC and rural communities. The 2014 BBC Trust rural review found a ‘gulf in understanding between the BBC and a significant section of the rural community’.

“The BBC’s charter requires the corporation to represent all the communities of the United Kingdom, and yet it is very clear that a large proportion of the people in countryside do not feel that the BBC reflects their lives. We are seeking meetings with the BBC to discuss what are clearly systemic issues.”

As a result, the Countryside Alliance met the BBC’s independent regulator, Ofcom, to discuss concerns and were invited to provide evidence to the first ‘thematic review of representation and portrayal on the BBC’. This is considered by regulators to be an attempt to represent all the country’s different communities.

With their submission, the CA pointed to the BBC’s failure to adhere to its own 2015 review of rural coverage. The move advised the need for a rural correspondent and to stop portraying all rural issues as controversial. Three years later, no rural correspondent has been appointed and the BBC still relies on a narrow set of protest groups for comment rather than delving into underlying issues.

Tim continued: “We believe the countryside deserves a truly neutral BBC. Our campaigning on this issue is relentless because BBC bias on rural issues is relentless, and it is vital that we highlight every occurrence until the problem is sorted. We are very grateful to Ofcom for the opportunity to discuss our concerns, and for the

opportunity to contribute to this thematic review. Hopefully it marks the beginning of improved rural coverage at the BBC.”

While the ‘beeb’ are sharing their rights to broadcast the football with ITV, the common view is that they are less inclined to give the shooting community its fair share of airtime. Unlike broadcasting a sport, which requires engaging content to capture audiences, reporting a matter of rural news interest requires nothing other than objective journalism.

While those in the sport of shooting, such as the CPSA, strive to create events that have a realistic chance of a positive broadcast, we know this will never fill our TV planners the way other sports do. So when it does make an appearance it deserves an equal crack of the whip, rather than being shot down by green campaigners and opinionated broadcasters.

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