BBC's Thomson defends World Cup studio

Monday, April 26 2010, 10:43 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson has defended the corporation's decision to build a rooftop studio for the World Cup.

Despite the fact that the temporary studio in Cape Town will be reusable for future events, the BBC has come under criticism from some quarters for not using the International Broadcast Centre in Johannesburg, where ITV will be based.

The Johannesburg broadcast centre not only represents a much cheaper option, but it is also in the same city as the opening match and final will be played.

Additional costs will be incurred by the BBC to relay a signal 1,500km between Cape Town and Johannesburg where the match feeds are due to come in.

The BBC further intends to bring 295 staff to cover the World Cup, which is 15% fewer than at the last tournament in Germany, but considerably more than the around 150 ITV plans to take.

However, Thomson claimed that the public does not want the BBC to present its World Cup coverage from "some windowless room in the basement".

Writing on her BBC Blog, Thomson also said that criticism of the BBC's staffing numbers is merely a "simplistic debate" in the context of culturally important events such as the World Cup.

"Yes, we must deliver value for money, and we have planned carefully to ensure spend on major events this summer is kept as lean and efficient as possible to guarantee our coverage does achieve great value," said Thomson.

"But at the same time, this determination must never be at the expense of the quality experience licence fee payers demand and expect. It would be a complete false economy to cover these events half-heartedly."

She added: "The viewer does not expect one of the world's greatest sporting occasions presented from some windowless room in the basement of Television Centre.

"They want iconic moments brought through knowledgeable, top quality broadcasting. These are their events and the BBC has duty to them to deliver the goods. We are not going to short-change the audience."