BBC receives 1,500 complaints over 'unfair' Qatar World Cup coverage

BBC receives 1,500 complaints over 'unfair' Qatar World Cup coverage
Viewers in the UK have blasted BBC coverage of the World Cup as 'unfair' to host nation Qatar.
3 min read
25 November, 2022
The BBC has come under fire for its coverge of the Qatar World Cup [Getty]

The BBC has received 1,500 complaints about its coverage of the Qatar World Cup with many judging its treatment of the host nation as "unfair" and "one-sided".

Criticism focused on the opening day of the tournament when the BBC relegated coverage of the opening ceremony to its online portals, having broadcast the Russia World Cup launch in 2018 on terrestrial channels.

The opening ceremony was praised across the world for a message of hope delivered by actor Morgan Freeman and Qatari activist Ghanim Al-Muftah who suffers from a rare condition known as Caudal Regression Syndrome.

Before the opening match between Qatar and Ecuador, presenter Gary Linekar embarked on a "monologue" about the host nation's alleged rights abuses, environmental issues, allegations of corruption, mistreatment of migrant workers, and laws against the LGBTQ+ community.

Qatar has said that it has made a number of reforms to benefit workers and others have pointed out that LGBTQ+ laws are rarely if ever used. It also prides itself on this being the first "carbon neutral" World Cup.

Viewers in the UK described the coverage as "one-sided" and "unfair" to the hosts, while others complained that the reporting jeopardised the BBC's reputation as an independent and impartial broadcaster.

Other viewers said they felt "lectured" during commentary of France v Australia on Tuesday. 

Some have pointed out that no Qatari pundits were allegedly invited to give their thoughts on Qatar's matches, with the nationality of analysts usually representing the nations playing that game.

MPs also criticised the coverage with Steve Brine, comparing the sports coverage to an episode of hard-hitting current affairs programme 'Panorama'.

"Half-time coverage of other nations’ matches used to be a chance to analyse the game and perhaps get an update from the home nations’ base camp," he said according to local media.

"Last night, sport seemed to be pushed out and BBC news took over."

The BBC said this week it had received more 1,432 complaints about its coverage of the Qatar World Cup.

The broadcaster said in a statement sent to The New Arab: "With regards to concerns about a discussion on the tournament being held in Qatar, while we have a long history of bringing major international football tournaments to audiences, including of course, all the action on the pitch, we also have a proven record of addressing topical issues as part of our coverage, and this World Cup is no different."

Presenter and former England star Gary Lineker recently admitted the BBC should have spoken out against Russian human rights abuses when covering the 2018 World Cup.

"I think we were sportswashed four years ago when we were in Russia," he said, following criticism of his treatment of Qatar.

"I do look back four years and feel slightly uncomfortable."

Russia has already killed thousands of Syrian civilians in bombing campaigns of anti-regime areas of Syria - including targeting schools, hospitals and bakeries - and illegally occupied and annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine.