BBC Sport boss defends ‘cull’ of veteran broadcasters – Daily Mail

A BBC executive has confirmed that the corporation are replacing veteran broadcasters with younger talent in a deliberate attempt to attract millennials.

Philip Bernie, head of television sport, admitted there was a need to ‘keep refreshing’ the presenting lineup to ensure ‘progression and proper diversity’.

It comes after several experienced white male presenters departed from BBC Radio 5 Live programmes and special broadcast in what was branded a ‘cull’.

‘Obviously no one goes on forever,’ said Bernie, ‘and although in broadcasting people do have longer careers than in other fields. I think it’s just a question of keeping a balance of your lineups.’

A BBC executive has confirmed that the corporation are replacing veteran broadcasters such as John Inverdale, 62 (left) with younger talent like Alex Scott, 35 (right), in a deliberate attempt to attract millennials

Speaking on the Media Masters podcast, the former Grandstand editor added that he wanted to engage more viewers from ‘across all demographics’. 

Last year, a report from regulator Ofcom warned that the BBC was at risk of losing a ‘generation of viewers’ with only 49 percent of 16 to 24 year olds tuning into their TV channels – a record low.

Bernie added: ‘The license fee is universal, we want to make sure we have something for everyone as much as possible, and sport is one of those areas where we think that should be more possible because the rare universal appeal that the bigger moments have and the draw it has from all walks of life and all age groups.’

Philip Bernie, head of television sport, admitted there was a need to ‘keep refreshing’ the presenting lineup to ensure ‘progression and proper diversity’

His remarks follow the departure of several figures from sports presenting.

BBC One’s Match of the Day has been long-serving pundits Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson replaced by a more diverse panel including Alex Scott, 35, the former England women’s international, and Jermaine Jenas, 37.

Jenas, a former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder whose playing career was cut short by injury, is rumoured to have been lined up as the long-term replacement for Gary Lineker, 59, the host.

Lineker has presented Match of the Day since the late 1990s but his £1.75 million salary — higher than that of any other BBC star — has become a source of embarrassment.

And while outside of Mr Bernie’s £170,000-a-year role, the corporation radio programming has seen dozens of veterans leave their roles.

John Inverdale, 62, left Radio 5 Live last year after being marginalised from the corporation’s Wimbledon coverage. 

And while the retirements of Test Match Special commentator Henry Blofeld, 80, and rugby union’s Ian Robertson, 75, may not have come much later, even middle-aged presenters have been shown the door.

There was anger when veteran football host Mark Pougatch, 52, became the latest to announce his exit, as he made it clear ‘this was not my decision’ after the BBC suggested he had ‘decided to move on’.

BBC One’s Match of the Day has seen long-serving pundits Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen (pictured left and right with Gary Lineker) replaced by younger female pundits

He and horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght, 55, who also left Radio 5 last year, had both been working at the station since 1994.

Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling, 65, said of Pougatch: ‘Sad that his total professionalism will be replaced by someone who is considered to be more in touch with the youth of today, even if they know sod all. He can’t say it so I will.’ 

Mr Bernie did however add that there was still a role for ‘exceptional’ older presenters at the BBC, pointing out that some veteran broadcasters were popular with young viewers.

Peter Alliss, the corporation’s 89-year-old ‘voice of golf’, has said that he hopes to commentate at The Open in 2022 before bowing out.

‘It’s just a question of keeping the balance of your lineups right,’ he said. 

Presenting veterans who have left the BBC

John Inverdale, 62: A veteran for the corporation covering Olympics, the Grand National and the World Cup. He left in March 2019 after being sidelined for Wimbledon coverage.

Mark Pougatch, 52: Joined Radio 5 Live for its 1994 launch, anchoring some of its main weekend sports coverage for 25 years. He left last year and is now chief presenter for ITV.

Cornelius Lysaght, 55: He joined 5 Live at the same time at Pougatch, fronting award-winning horse racing coverage. He announced his departure in December.

Henry Blofeld, 80: Hosted the Test Match Special almost uninterrupted since 1974, and was named the ‘Voice of Cricket’. He retired in 2017 after finding himself ‘out of kilter’ with younger commentators.

Ian Robertson, 75: Joining the Beeb in 1972, he was the official rugby union correspondent since April 1983. He retired at the end of 2018.

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