THE BBC has defended a decision to send almost 300 employees to Brazil to cover this summer's World Cup.

The corporation has revealed that it will have 272 people in South America for the tournament, enough to field more than 20 football teams.

BBC Sport director Barbara Slater said her aspiration was to make Brazil 2014 "the first 24/7 World Cup".

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Writing in a BBC blog, she said she aimed to deliver more hours of coverage than in the last World Cup for "less than the cost of a pint of milk for each viewer, listener or website user".

She said: "With more than 9,000 kilometres between BBC Sport's HQ in the UK and our production teams in Brazil, it is technically very challenging to leave significant elements of the broadcast operation back in the UK.

"For example, the significant delay in communications between the two countries presents an unacceptable risk to the continuity and quality of our programmes if we attempted to control the live operation from back in the UK with commentators, cameras and presentation teams spread around Brazil."

There will be 12 separate commentary teams working on TV and radio covering 60 live matches as well as shows including a documentary about David Beckham travelling to the Amazon rainforest. Its delegation, which will include pundits Rio Ferdinand, Thierry Henry, Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Phil Neville, is smaller than the 295 staff members who travelled to the South Africa World Cup in 2010. The number sent to South Africa was 15% lower than went to Germany four years earlier.

ITV also plan to base their staff in the country to provide coverage of the World Cup.

The BBC has previously come under fire for the amount of money it spends on sending large teams to cover high-profile events.

Coverage of music festival Glastonbury costs the licence fee payer in the region of £2m every year.

Nearly 300 staff - 10% more than the previous year - were on hand last year to produce around 250 hours of TV, radio and online broadcasts as well as a continuous live stream from the Somerset site.