BBC chiefs are working on plans for a pared-down broadcast of the Glasgow 2014 opening ceremony if planned strike action over pay by the corporation’s journalists and technicians goes ahead, according to a source within the corporation.
News items and much of the build-up to the ceremony would be hit, it is claimed, if the strike goes ahead, with one source saying it could lack “the kind of presentation the BBC rolled out for London 2012”.
A consortium of independent production companies that is filming the actual ceremony – with its footage being used by the BBC and other international broadcasters – yesterday said its coverage will be “unaffected” by the action. However, the National Union of Journalists yesterday warned the BBC it would be an “embarrassment” if the strike is allowed to go ahead on the day of the ceremony.
The union, one of three involved in next Wednesday’s industrial action, said any impact on coverage of the flagship event would be “tragic” and urged management to find a resolution. With further talks scheduled for tomorrow at the invitation of BBC management, concerns are growing over the broadcast plans for a day of high-profile ceremony.
It is believed news programming surrounding the Games launch would be hardest hit by the action, with the BBC using a feed of the opening ceremony from Sunset + Vine and Global Television (SVGTV), which will be responsible for filming, camera placement, direction and lighting at the ceremony, as well as delivering the feed to the BBC and other broadcasters.
BBC Scotland yesterday declined to comment on how the strike would affect its ambitious arrangements for the ceremony.
But it is understood logistics are being put in place to cope with a worst-case scenario.
A Pacific Quay source told The Scotsman that although the “nuts and bolts” of the ceremony featuring Rod Stewart and Susan Boyle would be broadcast, the BBC would lose face without its “heavy-hitting” plans for presentation.
Under longstanding plans, the BBC is devoting some 609 staff – drawn from across the UK – and third-party suppliers and freelancers to its Glasgow 2014 coverage. Bruce Malcolm, head of Commonwealth Games at the BBC, said the event will be “the biggest and most complex we’ll have delivered from Scotland”.
With the opening ceremony seen as a key component of the 11 days of coverage, a three-hour show is planned for BBC One, presented by Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Hazel Irvine, with an hour’s build-up before the ceremony is relayed live, complete with commentary by Huw Edwards and Irvine.
Nearly three hours of coverage has been set aside on Radio Scotland the same evening, featuring contributions from BBC journalists such as Jackie Bird, Richard Gordon and Tom English.
On BBC 5 Live, meanwhile, Mark Pougatch is scheduled to introduce a four-hour programme around the ceremony alongside Gavin Hastings and Tanni Grey-Thompson.
If the strike goes ahead, however, the years of planning that have gone into the coverage would be thrown into disarray.
A source explained: “The production company is the lead on the opening ceremony. They have their own camera operators and outside broadcast production staff filming the whole event so the nuts and bolts will all be taken care of.
“But what you won’t see in the event of the strike is the kind of presentation the BBC rolled out for London 2012.
“It’s treating the Commonwealth Games with just as much importance.”