Wince along with Ortis Deley

But Channel 4's problems aren't down to just one man.

We've all been there. That moment when you realise that you are hopelessly out of your depth can strike at any time. For some of us, the knowledge comes when you get asked a slightly awkward question in a meeting while you're peering out of the window and wishing you were somewhere else; for others, it happens live on television, in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

For poor Ortis Deley, sometime CBBC broom cupboard anchor and latterday likeable Gadget Show product demonstrator, that moment came this week when he presented Channel 4's World Athletics Championships coverage. Sit through this video - if you can - and wince along with the rest of us.

 

Oh, the poor man. I like him. I don't think he's a bad presenter, at all, but this really wasn't the thing for him. I don't want to see someone fail like that. I've been sitting there, willing him to succeed. But no.

To borrow an image from the athletics arena, it's been a little like watching a very fat man take an unlikely run-up at a 19-foot pole vault; you want it to happen, but you know, in all likelihood, that someone's going to end up with a pretty nasty graze rather than sailing triumphantly through the air and landing smack-bang in the middle of the cushion. You don't want to look, but you have to.

It's wrong, though, to think that Channel 4's problems have been down to one man. Deley's performances are symptomatic, rather than the root cause of the broadcaster's woes -- and installing Rick Edwards, a chisel-faced T4 clone, won't save them now.

So what went wrong? For one thing, Channel 4 were unlucky with the championships: the every-two-years format of world athletics means these games were never going to arouse the same kind of interest as others, and the presence of the Olympics less than a year away means all athletes have one eye on London.

As well as that, the big stars have failed to sparkle: British hopes like Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis have been pipped for glory, while Usain shot his Bolt and denied the world a moment of magic.

Bad luck, then, but it goes beyond that. The sheer amount of adverts -- accompanied by that rather irritating tune that reminds me of "Do you think I'm sexy" by Rod Stewart -- has irritated many viewers, used to seeing the flow of a championships develop on the ad-free BBC.

Channel 4 have done sport before, and done it very well: look back to those dim and distant days when you could actually watch live cricket on terrestrial telly, and they provided epic coverage of the Ashes series between England and Australia back in 2005. Since then, though, the channel's sports coverage has fallen away somewhat, apart from racing, which they continue to provide to a higher standard than their competitors.

That's a shame, because sports fans are left with rather binary options when it comes to their viewing pleasure nowadays. We're stuck with either the gloss of the BBC output -- which guarantees a roar of disapproval from the Corporation's critics in the broadsheets; how dare they spend money doing something properly, sending more than Hamilton Bland and two cocoa tins on a string to the biggest sporting spectacles in the world, etc etc etc - or never knowingly subtle Sky Sports. Must it be one or the other?

The trouble is, I suppose, that to do something actually well costs money. Sport costs a bundle before you've spent any money on the programme itself - just buying the rights sets broadcasters back an eyewatering amount - so by the time you've got around to thinking about what you're going to do with it, it might well be too late.

That's the reason for the mass of adverts during the athletics on Channel 4. I hope the rather limited success of Channel 4's Daegu coverage won't put them off having a bash in the future, but I rather fear it will.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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Theresa May knows she's talking nonsense - here's why she's doing it

The Prime Minister's argument increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in her words - the Tories your vote.

Good morning.  Angela Merkel and Theresa May are more similar politicians than people think, and that holds true for Brexit too. The German Chancellor gave a speech yesterday, and the message: Brexit means Brexit.

Of course, the emphasis is slightly different. When May says it, it's about reassuring the Brexit elite in SW1 that she isn't going to backslide, and anxious Remainers and soft Brexiteers in the country that it will work out okay in the end.

When Merkel says it, she's setting out what the EU wants and the reality of third country status outside the European Union.  She's also, as with May, tilting to her own party and public opinion in Germany, which thinks that the UK was an awkward partner in the EU and is being even more awkward in the manner of its leaving.

It's a measure of how poor the debate both during the referendum and its aftermath is that Merkel's bland statement of reality - "A third-party state - and that's what Britain will be - can't and won't be able to have the same rights, let alone a better position than a member of the European Union" - feels newsworthy.

In the short term, all this helps Theresa May. Her response - delivered to a carefully-selected audience of Leeds factory workers, the better to avoid awkward questions - that the EU is "ganging up" on Britain is ludicrous if you think about it. A bloc of nations acting in their own interest against their smaller partners - colour me surprised!

But in terms of what May wants out of this election - a massive majority that gives her carte blanche to implement her agenda and puts Labour out of contention for at least a decade - it's a great message. It increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in May's words - the Tories your vote. You may be unhappy about the referendum result, you may usually vote Labour - but on this occasion, what's needed is a one-off Tory vote to make Brexit a success.

May's message is silly if you pay any attention to how the EU works or indeed to the internal politics of the EU27. That doesn't mean it won't be effective.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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