Friday, October 17, 2008

If not now, when?

Dear BBC Online

The World Chess Championship began on 14 October in Germany (see for instance As yet I see no coverage on the BBC site. Is there a reason for this?

I write about chess and would appreciate a reply that I can publish.
The world chess championship began on Tuesday 13 October in Bonn: the biggest story of the year in chess. Not, however, big enough for the BBC, whose online news service, the single most extensive and comprehensive service of its kind in the world, has not found time to mention it.

It would be bad enough if this were unexpected. But the truth is that the same thing happened last time. Not a word of coverage until it was all over - and even then, not until two days after the event hd finished, when it was already old news.

Now I've argued before that if there is a crisis in British chess, it is a crisis, as much as anything else, of coverage. No sport can flourish if it is not mentioned in the media. It is ghettoised, with no prospect of escaping that ghetto: it is deprived of funds, because where there is no coverage there is no sponsorship.

Moreover, without coverage, there is no way that the British chess community can get in touch with the sizeable number of people who are interested in chess, who played at school, but who either do not play now or only play on the internet. These people will never come back to the game if they are not made aware of its existence. I can barely exaggerate how important I think this is. The absence of news coverage is profoundly damaging to British chess.

It is also, I think, more than a little insulting. If 'news' is defined as 'things that matter' then by this very token, it is considered of no consequence. The BBC may take that position, if it be their considered view: but I think that if they do, they should, at least, be asked to say so outright. To say that they've considered chess and have decided it is unworthy of mention. But they are not going to do that if we do not ask them.

So, what I'm going to do this morning is ask five minutes of our readers' time: five minutes to try and find out why the BBC wants to make chess invisible, five minutes to try and persuade them to do otherwise.

Here's what I'd like to ask you to do. This is the form for comments on the BBC site. It is simple to complete and send: please complete and send it.

There is also an address provided should you wish to send a letter:

BBC News website
Room 7540
BBC Television Centre
Wood Lane
W12 7RJ

or, if you prefer, here is the form for complaints.

Please take one step or another to tell the BBC you think they should be covering the match (and why) or ask why they are not. If possible, please let us know whether or not you got a response - and if so, what they said. If the request could be repeated on other chess sites, too, that would be appreciated.

Nothing will come of nothing, says Lear to Cordelia: speak again. To speak now takes only five minutes: should we be silent as well as invisible? There is a culture that we need to change and now, surely, is the time we should start to try and change it.


Anonymous said...

It should of course receive TV coverage for each game, never mind the website. In fact there should be a weekly two hour chess show, 52weeks a year.

However in an ultra-capitalist society where money is God, viewing figures (ie cash) are all that matters. The BBC is not a public service organisation as it claims to be, but just another corporate whore like ITV.

ejh said...

I recommend you do not make that point in your letter.

Anonymous said...

Chess nearly got on TV last night - on the channel 4 comedy "8 out of 10 cats". It was one of the totally wacky news stories for the comedians to rip the p1ss out of (honestly, a world chess championship? hohoho, there are some proper nutters out there!).

Unfortunately the photo of Kramnik behind a chess set was too boring for them to make any jokes about, so they went for the American lady with a flag on her head instead.

Anonymous said...

Scandalous. BBC emailed.

Anonymous said...

The British Biscuit Company has a policy of appealing to round, rectangular and even hexagonal minorities. A game consisting solely of squares could be seen as being shapeist. Perhaps different shaped boards could be introduced to comply with our crumbing down policy.
Joe S

Matt Sellwood said...



Martin Smith said...

Also done.

Anonymous said...

I think there are several news services that could benefit from a campaign like this ... I sent a comment to the BBC and posted to (which will appear probably Sunday).

Anonymous said...

I've emailed the BBC as requested.

To be fair, there are much bigger sports stories to cover - who could have missed the World Scalextric Championships in Milton Keynes which the BBC thoughtfully brought to us all on this morning's news?

FIDE has a lot to answer for - why on earth did they allow the world championship match to clash with such a momentous event???

Adam B.