Media evolution

12/08/2012  -  11.10

Paul Brighton, Head of Department of Media and Film

It was announced the other day that the BBC will show the two Olympic football warm-up games on July 20: one for women’s football, and the Brazil tie in the men’s.

There was a story running to this effect on the BBC’s Online and Ceefax service.

Just think about that for a moment. The BBC Press Office issues a press release to announce the screening of the pre-tournament friendlies five days before the football tournament starts, and a week before the official opening.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course: but it set me thinking about how both the media coverage and the media management of the Games will be so different from the way things happened in the 1948 London Games, let alone those of 1908.

Although the 1948 Games were the first to involve newspapers, radio, film AND television, the arrangements were pretty rudimentary.

One volunteer recalled: “There was the press officer, his secretary, five telephones which never stopped ringing, and me.” International phone calls had to be booked (booked!) the previous day, and there were permanent queues.

A team of boy scouts on bicycles was employed to handle the telegrams. As for 1908, the newspapers were so busy reporting the fury of King Edward VII at the refusal of the Americans to dip their flag in his honour that it took the gentlemen of the press a while actually to get round to reporting what was happening on the field.

This time round, there will, quite rightly, be much talk about the 2012 Olympics being the most sophisticated media operation ever undertaken in Britain.

But, if the whole gamut of Red Buttons, interactive platforms, multi-channel, multi-screen, multi-angled High Definition goes belly-up, let’s hope Seb Coe has a Plan B.

Where are the bicycling boy scouts when you need them?!