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BBC’s Match of the Day Struggles Without Gary Lineker—Flouting Its Own Accessibility Guidelines

The introduction screen to BBC's Match of the Day

During the fallout from the BBC-Gary Lineker row, there was one group of people who were especially left in the lurch: visually impaired people.

After Lineker wrote a tweet in which he compared the government’s language in one of their new immigration policies to that of the Nazis in Germany during the 1930s, he was removed from presenting Match of the Day.

Many celebrities and MOTD viewers rallied around the former footballer with support, including his fellow presenters Alex Scott, Ian Wright, and Alan Shearer, as well as commentators of games, and even premiere league players. And, whilst this is great to see, and I too support Lineker, it’s a bit shit of the BBC to not offer any audio description whatsoever. Though I’m not a footy fan myself, and I don’t use AD, I am visually impaired. I have watched games in the past and, because everything happens so fast, I rely on the commentators to tell me what is actually happening,

To be fair to the BBC, their editorial guidelines do state that they “should not only communicate information visually, but key information should also be communicated orally”, and “factual entertainment shows should give factual information, such as charts and scores, verbally as well as with graphics”.

However, while it’s understandable that nobody wanted to be a scab during the fiasco that happened, surely there should have been amendments once it had gone up on BBC iPlayer? At the moment, there is no option for even a robotic audio description … Do they believe that, because it’s only available for a week and the program was cut down to a mere 20 minutes, it’s acceptable to just leave it as cheering from the crowd?

It seems like I’m not the only one who is bewildered by the BBC’s lack of accessibility.

@NotJustABlindGuy, who is a blind content creator wrote on Twitter, “I am so angry, it was bad enough what @BBCSport @BBCAccessAll did too @GaryLineker but to put on @BBCMOTD without any commentary is not just inaccessible, it is a breach of the equalities act! It shows how little they care for disabled viewers! #Accessibility #Disability#MOTD”.

His tweet caught the attention of the blindness charity Royal National Institute of Blind People, who quoted the tweet and said that they thought the BBC’s lack of accessibility was “unacceptable.”

“The BBC needs to do better. We agree with Jurgen that their decision not to include commentary on Match of the Day is unacceptable. The BBC should be upholding basic accessibility standards so that everyone can enjoy their output.”

In the replies to the RNIB’s tweet, somebody said, “It could have used excerpts of the BBC Five Live and local radio commentaries instead? Perhaps they could fix it in an iPlayer version?”

However, while some commentary could have been used, a large part of Radio 5 Live’s broadcasting was also affected. Presenter Mark Chapman refused to go on air and so Saturday afternoon’s coverage (March 11) was not broadcast.

If the channels and stations know that a program, especially such a visual one like football, will be affected, why did they not prepare? A boycott may have not happened before, but there will have been technical difficulties that have affected presenting to some degree, so why, as disabled people, are we always left in the lurch?

I would like to echo what the RNIB said, to all and any broadcaster about accessibility and disabled people’s needs: Do better.

(featured image: The BBC)

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Brooke Pollock is a UK-based entertainment journalist who talks incessantly about her thoughts on pop culture. She can often be found with her headphones on listening to an array of music, scrolling through social media, at the cinema with a large popcorn, or laying in bed as she binges the latest TV releases.