Head of sport attacked by own staff

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The Independent Online
THE BBC is facing a revolt from staff in its own sports department and other managers who believe the broadcaster "has no strategy for sport".

A letter written to a newspaper yesterday by staff at BBC sport contained a stinging attack on the corporation's head of television sport, Mike Miller. The letter blames him for "finishing off" the BBC's commitment to televised sport.

The letter, which was on headed BBC paper and was anonymous, claimed that it was not motivated by "bitchiness", but it followed rumblings of discontent about Mr Miller. It claims: "Ask anyone here about him; they all have their own horror stories... ultimately the sporting public will suffer for the insanity of what's happening here."

The letter specifically attacks Mr Miller, who was the former head of Channel 4 sport, for losing domestic cricket to Channel 4 and being unaware of its intention to bid, despite leaving only a matter of weeks before. It claims he has few contacts in British sport and criticises him for paying too much for poorly watched athletics, when the BBC will show only two live football matches next year.

"The cost of TV sport has increased," says the letter. "This provides the powers that be with a good excuse to divert the licence fee to the things that interest them."

Mr Miller defended himself yesterday, claiming that critics used "rose- tinted glasses" to look at other broadcasters: "People say to me, `You've lost live Premiership games'. But I say, `No we never had them, how could we have lost them?' We still have the best portfolio of sports rights of any terrestrial television channel in the world. Yes, there have been losses and we don't like losing anything, but there has been so many great changes in digital television, pay-per-view and what we pay."

However, senior sources at BBC Radio added criticism of their own sports department. Some managers are angry at the loss of the rights to England's cricket tour of southern Africa later this year to Talk Radio. "There is a gap where there should be a strategy," a senior radio manager said.

The BBC said yesterday it would hold an inquiry to find out who sent the letter. A corporation spokesman accused "one or two disaffected people" of "tainting an otherwise very talented" sports department.