BBC to Add $7.4 Million to Budget for Olympic Coverage

BBC3 channel secures budget boost to fuel uptick in broadcasting needs.

LONDON – The BBC Trust has given the green light to a host of proposals the BBC pitched for its plans to boost the amount of coverage of next year’s London 2012 Olympics.

The BBC Trust said okay to myriad measures including bold plans by the Beeb to extend BBC3’s hours of broadcast and to drop BBC Parliament during the Olympics to allow more Olympic coverage across its network of channels.

The BBC Trust, the $7.7 billion-a year-broadcaster's oversight committee, also said okay to BBC proposals to launch a temporary DAB digital radio service, BBC 5 Live Olympics Extra, and extend live online coverage to complement TV and radio output.

BBC3 currently rolls out from 7 p.m. to 7a.m. here but during the Olympics from July 19 to August 12 it will air all day.

The Trust said the channel's budget would be bolstered by a £4.5 million ($7.4 million) budget increase to cover the cost and will see BBC3 broadcasting "predominantly" Olympics coverage, with regular news bulletins every hour and the channel's usual non-sport schedule from 11 p.m. BST.

BBC3's daytime Olympics coverage will take the place of BBC Parliament on Freeview – although it will be available on other platforms including cable, satellite and online.

The BBC Trust said that the impact on audiences of removing BBC Parliament from Freeview is expected to be "minimal" as the channel's unique reach – people who watch no other BBC service – is only about 120,000.

"[This] indicates most have other viewing choices, and the disruption to their usual viewing habits will anyway be temporary," the BBC Trust said.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics the BBC also suspended the broadcast of BBC Parliament, with the proviso that if parliament were recalled then coverage would resume.

Parliament has been recalled twice this summer with first the emergency debate from the fallout of the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and secondly in the wake of the rioting, looting and civil unrest that rocked the U.K. last week.

The BBC has also been given approval for launching a digital radio service, BBC 5 Live Olympics Extra, for "around 20 days" over the course of the Olympics. The temporary station will have a budget of £200,000 ($328,000).

In addition to the BBC's usual online coverage, the corporation has been given permission to offer about 1,000 hours of live Olympics video coverage, which will not be shown on television.

The extra 1,000 hours – which will fulfill its commitment to the International Olympic Committee to bring "every minute" of the event to U.K. audiences live – is not within the current scope of the BBC Online service license.