St Helens MP quizzes BBC bosses over rugby league ‘bias’

St Helens South MP Marie Rimmer
St Helens South MP Marie Rimmer
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MPs - including St Helens South’s Marie Rimmer - have quizzed BBC bosses about their coverage of rugby league.

Three of the Beeb’s most senior managers appeared before the Parliamentary Rugby League Group, which Ms Rimmer serves as group secretary.

They discussed the 13-a-side code with BBC Trust Chairman Rona Fairhead OBE, Head of BBC Head of Sport Barbara Slater OBE, and BBC TV Sport Editor Alastair McIntyre.

Topics included the role and strategy the organisation takes in covering rugby league, and how the corporation views the sport.

The group praised the BBC’s innovative approach to covering RL, including the use of player mics.

Specific complaints include missing the coverage of major national rugby league events in news broadcasts and the use of “rugby” instead of “rugby union”. The attitude of presented on the flagship programme Today was also raised as a concern.

Group chairman Greg Mulholland said: “On behalf of the Group, I was very pleased Rona Fairhead and Barbara Slater agreed to speak to us; rugby league and the BBC have been synonymous over the years and we thank Barbara and her team for their ongoing work.

“The BBC rugby league team do a fantastic job and are hugely passionate about what they do.

“It was great to hear from Alastair in more detail about the way they cover rugby league and the innovations that have introduced in coverage.

“However, as Members made clear in the meeting, we cannot help but be disappointed in some ways the game is treated within the corporation outside of BBC Sport, particular across BBC news and online.

“Amongst London based news editors there is clearly an institutional blind eye to rugby league which is one of the most popular team sports in the country.

“On one particularly stark example the recent England victory over New Zealand was not even mentioned in a news bulletin, which is both bizarre and disgraceful.

“The meeting was therefore a very useful opportunity for this and specific issues to be raised before the Chairman of the BBC Trust to understand the depth of feeling across the game and how this might be addressed.

“We recognise there are challenges in the broadcast and news market, but when you consider the scale of rugby league in the UK all we ask is for our sport to get an appropriate level of coverage.

“We are very grateful to Rona, Barbara and Alastair for their time and we look forward to working with them and the BBC to the benefit of rugby league.”