Helen Martin: Gardeners of the World unite against sport in TV wars

Green-fingered fans don't want sport arbitrarily replacing their guru of the garden, Monty Don
Green-fingered fans don't want sport arbitrarily replacing their guru of the garden, Monty Don
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ANYONE who has a garden or an allotment has been jinxed by the weather this spring. Planting has been held back and even reaching the soil under snow, ice and flooding has often proved impossible.

In an attempt to clear up doggy-wee burned patches in our lawn, we raked up the dead grass, loosened the compacted earth, applied some top soil and sprinkled grass seeds.

One week later the seeds had drowned and subsequently been frozen – so back to square one.

For real horticulture enthusiasts, Monty Don’s Gardeners’ World on BBC2 offers current, seasonal guidance and problem-solving advice, pulling in between 2.5 and 3 million viewers last year.

Now those armed with hoes, trowels, forks and spades are up in arms at the BBC. Friday’s show was skipped and replaced by football – England women’s World Cup qualifier against Wales. And the World Snooker Championships later in April will do the same.

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Protestors demanded sport should be screened on BBC4, or some other obscure channel … if at all; they highlighted that right now is the most important season for gardeners and raged at the broadcasting decisions.

In response, the BBC said it was bound by contractual agreements when it came to coverage of sports events.

This is a “debate” that occurs almost every week in our house whether it’s over the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics, the Paralympics, the Winter Olympics, football matches or anything else that scuppers programming on major channels.

Himself being a former sports writer, nothing of that sort will be missed. So he settles down in the lounge where the TV box exists, with his feet up on a footstool, and I hang out in a hard-backed chair in the kitchen with the ordinary Freeview set and all internal doors shut to save my ears from the nightmarish roars and chants of football crowds.

In my case, it’s usually a favourite drama or some other series of programmes which are ousted by sports events. So, it isn’t all about gardening.

Sports fans are blind to the fact that sport is not something of universal interest. Football fans may not be totally into golf or Wimbledon, and not all tennis players are into rugby or snooker.

But the fact is that many viewers don’t want to watch any sport at all (the exception in my case being when Andy Murray’s on court). The most awful circumstance is when two, or even three, of the main channels are taken over at the same time.

And why should everyone paying a licence fee be contributing towards ridiculously expensive sports broadcasting rights which disrupt the schedules?

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It’s tough working out the costs but for example, Sky, which charges heavy subscriptions for sport, paid £4.18 billion for three seasons of Premier League football starting in 2016 – 2017.

Why should a public broadcasting service be playing in the same, financially competitive ball park?

Sports fans must have loved Friday on BBC2 … 1pm to 5.15pm, Commonwealth Games; 5.45pm to 6.45pm, Golf – The Masters; 6.45pm to 9pm, England v Wales women’s World Cup qualifier. Others must be wondering why, in a digital age in which Sky has its own sports channels, the BBC can’t have the same, allowing Monty Don to carry on leading the gardeners’ world.

Balls to ‘No Ball Games’ signs

GREAT idea that “No Ball Games” signs should be dumped. I remember when Princes Street Gardens had patrolling wardens and metal signs saying “Keep Off The Grass”!