Panorama: a reaction
Friday, 20 July, 2012
MR editor Danny Coyle’s thoughts on last night’s programme.
It was interesting to monitor the reaction on Twitter last night during the BBC’s Panorama programme on sports drinks and footwear. The beauty of Twitter in this day and age is that you don’t have to wait until your weekly dose of ‘Points of View’ to find out what the public thinks about TV programmes. Opinions, my dad once told me, are like arseholes.
Everyone’s got one. And there are a lot of them on Twitter (both opinions and arseholes). I digress. The overwhelming response in the 140-character format seemed to be one of ambivalence. ‘Nothing we didn’t already know’ was the general feeling from those using the social media network to comment on the evidence the Beeb were presenting. If you missed it, the hour-long investigation looked into the claims made by sports drinks manufacturers about the benefits to performance gained from using their products.
It then delved into the debate over footwear, assessing the arguments in support of either barefoot or shod running. Conclusions were that the claims from the drinks giants weren’t necessarily based on the best possible research and that barefoot style running was better for you, although this was less vehemently supported by any of the show’s contributors, notably barefoot runner and scientist Dr Daniel Lieberman, whose ultimate nugget of advice was, “what matters is not what’s on your feet but how you run.”
The common man
What struck me by the end of the programme was that the sum total of ‘normal’ runners they’d interviewed amounted to zero. Zip. Zilch. In ignoring this sector of the market, the programme failed to complete the picture, namely the fact that each runner is different. One gel or drink will agree with my gut and energise me, be that physically or mentally.
Another brand will not. In fact, it might upset my gut and slow me down. One type of shoe will feel comfortable on my feet, another less so. We all have our favourites. Of course, the magazine I edit makes cash from sports drinks companies and footwear manufacturers. They advertise within our pages and they vary in their advice and their claims. They each back their products with research carried out in the interests of discovering the best way to aid a runner’s performance. What I hope we do is provide the platform for the debates about these areas and suggest good advice from people with expertise in their relevant fields.
Another telling point from last night’s programme is one that widens out to much of the pre-Olympic programming the Beeb have been airing of late. Where has the coverage been for some of our truly iconic medal hopes in London? I’m thinking principally of Mo Farah and Mark Cavendish but add to this Paula Radcliffe, no longer a gold medal contender but for so long the darling of the BBC’s athletics coverage. Could it be the Olympic broadcaster has sought to document the stories of athletes sponsored by the official Olympic kit supplier, as opposed to one of its main rivals?
Then there’s Bradley Wiggins, about to do what no other Briton has ever done, riding for a team named after and sponsored by another broadcaster. How much have we seen about this historic sporting story on the public broadcaster’s main channels? It is worth noting also that last night’s programme spent far less time on Team GB’s official sports drink than it did raking over the claims made by one of its big competitors.
Its programme ended by delivering possibly the best morsel of advice the entire hour could muster. Stay hydrated, run in shoes you feel comfortable with and get out there and do enough exercise to keep you in good health. It sounds like a good balance to strike, and not one mimicked so far by the channel’s sporting coverage of late.