Archived: If You Must Complain, Do The Math(s) First!

Originally published as a FB Note, on 20 May 2008 at 22:12

Every so often, a story arises that supports my own adage that ‘common sense isn’t that common’. Here’s this week’s new entry:

As you may know, last Saturday was a wall-to-wall Six Nations day on BBC1. Having expensively acquired the rights to cover the tournament, the BBC naturally wanted to extract maximum value for its (make that our) outlay. In days gone by, the games were, rather quaintly, held simultaneously. This of course divides up the viewership over the 80 minutes and requires multiple channels to cover all the games. Obviously the Beeb wanted a better solution than this and presumably, it was agreed during the negotiations that the fixtures would be staged consecutively. A broadcaster-friendly format benefits the paying TV company but it also gives maximum exposure to the tournament.

What we arrived at, then was the inevitable succession of games strung together across the afternoon/evening. Now I’m not a big fan of Union. I’ll watch the odd England international but not that intently. I do however accept the fact that there were three matches on in a row, decided not to watch them and I got on with my life.

What I couldn’t believe was that 124 people complained about this to the BBC. They responded by pointing out that a combined 15m viewers watched the three matches – and then that they apologised anyway!

How arrogant would you have to be to moan at the BBC because they’re not showing something you like on just one of their channels? You can safely assume that scheduling decisions are made for ratings purposes and that viewers will always outnumber complainers overwhelmingly so you can never expect to be in a majority. Of course, you may seek to gain the moral ground of having registered your dissatisfaction but if you’re only posturing, why the hell should anyone else listen to you or take you seriously?

Compare the maths with the 2005 UK General Election. A total of 27.1m people cast their vote, a factor of 1.806(rec) of last weekend’s 15m viewership. The 124 complaints similarly scaled therefore equates to 224 votes in the last election. Not only is that less than half the representation of any party in 2005, it’s only 3.5% of the figure that voted Monster Raving Loony and less than a fifth of the number who voted Communist – and they still got an apology!

Continuing the politeness, the BBC’s Director of Sport, Roger Mosey attempted to draw a firm but diplomatic veil over the issue in his blog. I know we’re/they’re paying his wages and I understand he’d like to avoid appearing unprofessional in any way, but it’s gone far enough. I don’t mind saying it for him:

If you don’t like something on telly, turn it over or turn it off. If you do like something, bear in mind that perhaps not everyone else will. You have no credibility in complaining about sport one minute but expecting us all to watch yet another panel-based ‘celebrity’ format talent (sic) show the next. Guess what? In the real world, all but 9.16m of the country (on 19/12/07)didn’t watch Strictly Come Dancing, but mostly we’re intelligent enough to know that there’s a ratings reason why it exists. We mostly find something else to watch or maybe even do something else.

It may be called Auntie Beeb, but this lot would seem to think of the BBC as more of a nanny. Grow up you sad acts!

Incidentally, I’d love to know what the Male/Female and Age Range split was of these 124 whingers. Please speculate at will… 🙂