The following is a note I sent to the BBC in response to their interactive feature, “Footballers’ wages: How long would it take you to earn a star player’s salary?”, which appeared on their website on August 29th. Sadly, I was restricted to 2000 characters (included spaces). I could certainly have said a lot more.
To Whom It May Concern:
Normally, I find the interactive features that the BBC website generates to be enlightening, informative, and even entertaining. Indeed, as a Scottish born expat I tend to hold the BBC in high regard, a link to the website enjoying its place of pride atop my bookmarks.
However, in the case of the feature comparing footballers’ wages to those of ordinary hard-working people I cannot help but take pause.
We live in a world plagued by crass displays of obscene wealth. Instagram funnels a steady stream of obnoxious self-congratulatory images of consumer-driven abundance. Facebook lambasts us with celebratory photos of lives lived more successfully than ours. The footwear decisions of First Wives are front page news, as are the makeup bills of Presidents.
The BBC has plunged into this morass of putrid excess by making it clear to me that professional footballer Neymar can make my weekly salary in 11 minutes. Thank you for utterly diminishing the work I do by reminding me of my inefficiency and poor choice of profession (I teach at a university). If only I had made better decisions, were more talented, or had a better sense of marketing, I too could shame others and the paltry amounts they earn.
I am not naïve. I am well aware that there are people who make a lot of money. Every day I’m reminded that there is great wealth to be had in the world, just not by me. I am not part of that club but shock/horror, I’m ok with that. I am proud of the work I do, “meagre” salary and all. I know that I am privileged beyond belief. I don’t live in a war zone. I do not have to risk life and limb to escape an oppressive regime. I have access to clean water, bountiful amounts of food, and enjoy the freedom to say what I want without fear of repercussions. I have endless reasons to celebrate my existence, and I certainly do not need the BBC summing me up in such puerile terms as how many years I’d have to work to make as much as Neymar (877, to be exact).
I really wanted to add the following line, but edit as I did I couldn’t find a way to include it in my 2000 characters. I’m still irked that I didn’t have a proper closing remark.
I am disappointed at the utter insensitivity that this feature exhibits. The world has many real problems, and the BBC would be better served remembering that.
I’m waiting for a response.
UPDATE (3 Sep, 2017):
I am happy to report that the BBC has responded to my complaint with a dutiful form letter delivered in a timely manner. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was probably something more along the lines of “we are humbled by your outrage yet so impressed by your wit and dexterity with words that we are extending an offer to you to write for us on a regular basis. Naturally, we will pay you an exorbitant amount of money to provide us with your particularly clever point of view.” Alas, their response was a little more by the books. I suppose there is a lesson to be learned (over and over and over) about expectation and reality and their inevitable collision.
Here’s the BBC’s response in full.
Dear Mr. Livingstone
Thank you for contacting us about the BBC Sport Website.
I understand you felt an article in which readers could compare their salary with that of a number of professional footballers was insensitive and offensive.
We know that not everyone will agree with our choices on which stories to cover, and the prominence that we give to them. These decisions are made by our editors, taking into consideration the editorial merit of the stories at hand, and we accept that not everyone will think that we are correct on each occasion.
There are several factors that we take into consideration when deciding how to put together our online content. These decisions are always judgement calls rather than an exact science.
The BBC is a publicly-funded broadcaster serving the whole of the United Kingdom providing content to a hugely diverse audience with differing tastes and preferences. There will always be some online articles that do not appeal to some people given we are serving many different people with many different expectations.
Nevertheless, we appreciate your feedback as it helps us to get a snapshot of our audiences’ tastes and preferences and will help us shape decisions on future online content.
All complaints are sent to senior management and programme makers every morning and we have included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.
BBC Complaints Team
NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.