BBC denies Manchester United obsession but will 'keep an eye on' coverage
The BBC has denied having an obsession with Manchester United but its head of football output admits the corporation needs to "keep an eye on" the amount of coverage it gives to the club.
Friday's FA Cup first-round tie between Salford City and Notts County has been selected for live broadcast by the BBC. That is scheduled just 24 hours after the second of a two-part BBC1 documentary called 'Class Of '92: Out of Their League' airs, which is about five former United players' ownership of Salford.
United's most successful manager Sir Alex Ferguson was recently the subject of a BBC1 documentary, and so too was United and England striker Wayne Rooney.
BBC's football boss Mark Cole told radiotimes.com it had been "mentioned" in discussions over which FA Cup tie to show live that the choice of Salford City could provoke claims of favouritism towards the Old Trafford club, based just a few miles away from the broadcaster's Salford headquarters.
Cole defended the coverage. When asked if the BBC was obsessed with United, he told the website: "That was mentioned when we were choosing the games and I said 'look, we have to just choose what we think is the best game and we've just got to make sure all of our coverage is fully representative of the whole country', which it is."
Referring to the recent spate of programmes about the Red Devils, Cole added: "I can see as a collective that some people will say 'look actually you have got to be careful on that', I think it is just one for us to keep an eye on.
"I think if you had said five years ago that the BBC would be accused of having a bias towards coverage in the north then people would have laughed at you."
One viewer, writing on the BBC's Points of View message board recently, criticised the BBC of being "Mancunian-centric" over its sports coverage, and the Sir Alex Ferguson documentary in particular. Ferguson had famously refused to be interviewed by the BBC for years after a 2004 documentary investigated his son Jason's work as a football agent.
Another viewer posted on the BBC site: "As I said last week, BBC sports should flit over the Manchester Ship Canal and set up in Old Trafford, or just let MUTV take over their sports content."