FOR the last couple of years armchair British golf fans have been spoilt for choice when it comes to watching the Masters.
Since 2011, when Sky was awarded dual rights together with the BBC, we have been able to watch the Par 3 tournament and the first two rounds on Sky and then choose between the two over the weekend. We can also elect to listen to all four rounds unfolding via 5Live’s excellent live broadcasts or else trawl the web for all the latest information.
Indeed, just about the only thing that keeps us from abandoning real life altogether during the second weekend in April is the host club’s continued insistence that live coverage must be rationed.
Until a few years ago, no broadcaster was allowed to show action from the first eight holes. That changed in 1993, but, to this day, the authorities still demand there is no live coverage on Sunday evening until 7pm BST. Like it or lump it, that’s the way it is.
Masters officials exert an asphyxiating control over official broadcasters which is why even the most strident TV analysts appear more obsequious than normal when covering the action from Augusta. Everything, from the graphics to the number of ad breaks, is governed by the club.
Its officials also insist that spectators should be referred to as “patrons” and not as “fans” and heaven help any broadcaster who makes unseemly references to prize money.
It all smacks of Big Brother but that does not mean I shall be snubbing the coverage. In fact, I know now exactly what I will be doing on all four days of the forthcoming championship and can confirm it will be the same as last year and the year before. I am a big admirer of much of Sky’s coverage, and in particular the fine job done on a weekly basis by the likes of Ewen Murray, Robert Lee, Mark Roe and Wayne Riley. I will happily watch its Masters coverage over the first two days but will then be
switching to the BBC come the weekend.
The main reason why I will watch the BBC, rather than its payfor- view rival, is because it will give me the opportunity to listen to the dulcet tones of Peter Alliss. The complete absence of advertisements is one reason and another is the fact the BBC are much better at straddling the narrow line that exists between adhering to the club’s edicts while not sounding too sycophantic. However, let’s be clear here, the main reason why I will watch the BBC, rather than its payfor- view rival, is because it will give me the opportunity to listen to the dulcet tones of Peter Alliss.
Even in his 80s, he still rivals John McEnroe for the title of No 1 sports commentator, albeit for entirely different reasons. Alliss brings a unique perspective to golf broadcasting. He divides opinion but I find him engaging, informative and entertaining and it worries me that his days in the booth might be numbered both by his age and the real danger that his employers will lose what is left of its once substantial golf portfolio.
Alliss is one of a growing number of BBC insiders who are pessimistic about the future. “It’s very hard to compete with someone with seemingly unlimited funds,” he told the Daily Mail. “The racing has gone and Formula 1 has gone. It’s sad. It’s the end of an era.”
My own belief is that it is inevitable that the BBC will lose the Masters to Sky in the not too distant future but I remain more hopeful it will continue to transmit the Open after the present contract runs out in 2016.
That was a subject raised at last year’s Open Championship Media Day and it elicited an interesting response from the R&A’s chief executive, Peter Dawson. “They (the BBC) have to stay in practice,” he said.
“They have to keep up with the advances in technology and they know we have our eye on that.
“We recognise they cover much less golf than they used to but we do still think they do a good job.
“Watching the coverage of the Masters and the Open on the BBC is not a bad experience,” he added and surely was not wrong.
Read this month’s Great Debate on Masters coverage HERE.
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