The dawn of social media has been the curse of mainstream media, but probably never more so than during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as the public were able to air their views instantly via the likes of Twitter and Facebook, rather than writing to Chief Editors or Program Directors and never receiving a response.
Channel 4 in the UK is to be applauded for changing their planned programming following complaints from the general public that there were too many advertising breaks in their coverage of the Paralympic games. They also took onboard the complaints that the timing of the breaks was often at crucial times in an event. Channel Four listened and in fact increased the amount of sport shown and cut back on studio time, and are to be applauded for doing so.
When they did go to the studio, the format was excellent. With one or two hosts depending on the time of day and usually a former Paralympian or Olympian as a guest ensuring that the coverage was both informative and entertaining.
In Australia Channel Nine copped a lambasting for their Olympic coverage and deservedly so, it was worse than mediocre. Fox Sports gave its viewers a choice of sports to watch with dedicated channels which was great, but unfortunately sometimes they were stuck with the same presenters as Channel 9. How is it we see so many stations allowing presenters to appear on other stations?
The ABC put their hand up to cover the Paralympics and while the commentary was first class the presentation as a whole was disappointing. Having returned from the Games and tuned in for the last two days the gulf between this coverage and what had been on offer in the UK was immense. Why were certain states in Australia subjected to delayed telecasts of live events? Why were we watching three nobodies in the studio who knew absolutely nothing about sport rabbitting on when a live event was actually taking place? One wonders how Stephanie Brantz survived having to work with people with no presenting skills and no sports knowledge, one felt sorry for her and only hopes that she was rewarded appropriately.
The question is why is it in Australia that the television stations seem to think events such as the Paralympics and the Olympic games need “entertainers” as part of the presentation? Surely the sport itself is entertainment enough.
Understandably coverage has to be given to home grown athletes, but if you are going to cross to a medal ceremony, please don’t cut back to the studio when the Australian has received their bronze or silver medal, as some of us may like to see who actually won the event. This is supposed to be a multicultural country, and some new arrivals and some long term Australians may also be moved to see their former homelands medal and that flag being raised.
Both of these Games only come around every four years, and there are so many great stories at both events; stories of achievement, overcoming the odds, outstanding effort, heartbreak and many more. The Games will tell a story of their own. The way the two games were presented this time around one almost felt short-changed, as viewers missed so much while having to endure the inane mutterings of supposed entertainers and people with little or no knowledge of the sport they were commentating on. The backlash from social media emphatically backed up the public’s view that this was not acceptable.
One would hope that the station heads will have pored over the comments and realise that when the same point has been raised frequently, take on board that maybe they got that part of their presentation wrong. It would also be hoped that the Communications Minister and his department will have been monitoring the comments that the Government-funded ABC received and will be discussing their performance with them. Hopefully asking for some justification of sending non-sporting identities to London to cover such an important event. This is probably wishful thinking, but it should happen.
People have started to speak up for what they want and it appears that they will no longer accept mediocrity. Australia has proved in so many sports that it can present top class quality coverage. That is why it is important that events that are only held every four years are broadcast to those same high standards, it is what the public and the athletes deserve. There should definitely be no delayed telecasts!