Thursday, August 2, 2012

BBC Olympics

While watching the swimming events yesterday, I was struck by the coverage done by the BBC. Every single time there was an athlete from Great Britain competing in any race, the commentators focused almost all of their attention on that athlete. This would not be completely out of the ordinary, except for the fact that most of the time the Great Britain athlete was in fifth place or worse. Even after losing, the commentators would not focus on the winners, only commenting on how the Great Britain athlete "tried hard." And when Michael Jamieson, a British athlete, won silver in the 200m backstroke, announcers stated that coverage would turn to the "silver medal ceremony."I do not completely remember NBC coverage from the last olympics, but I do not remember only focusing on the Americans. And I definitely do not remember announcers ever calling a medal ceremony as if only one person is receiving a medal and not all three.

The incredibly biased coverage struck me as odd because of the BBC's reputation for unbiased coverage. I understand that this is the olympics and every country focuses on their athletes, but when the commentators are not even discussing the person who wins the event, something seems wrong.


  1. After watching some of the swimming competition I have noticed this Team GB favoritism as well. Of course it is only natural to support your team. The BBC realizes that the majority of viewers will want to see the progression of their home team. The coverage is heightened even more due to the fact that Great Britain is hosting the Games. We have to remember that we are watching the British Team on British TV at the British Games.

    That being said, BBC is also a global news source that prides itself on presenting it’s audience with a broad world view. I was shocked when after a swimming race had finished, BBC was not interviewing the winner, but interviewing their fifth place GB swimmer. AS an American I felt cheated that I didn’t get to see some of the American winners be interviewed. But even if I was from a country that was not even competing in swimming, I would still want to see the interview of the winner. That is part of experiencing the Olympics, sharing the personal journeys with the athletes and learning more about the struggles they conquered to become amazing athletes. After interviewing so many fifth-placed swimmers, there’s not much to say. We get it BBC, Team GB put in the great effort and they’re really just glad to be here representing their country. Now go talk to Chad le Clos and how he feels about beating Michael Phelps.

  2. Since NBC has the broadcast rights in the US, they undoubtedly get the first crack at talking to the US Olympic team. The gauntlet of press that swimmers have to go through to get out of the pool to go to the warmdown pool is probably quite large. The athletes like to get in the warmdown pool quickly so they don't get a lactic acid build up--especially if they are swimming in another race. I too would like to see more of the US team, but this is the BBC British broadcast and they know their audience. Their audience wants to see the Brits. Most US citizens are at home watching on BNBC. I also suspect that athletic coverage isn't considered news coverage so is not likely held to the same "unbiased coverage" standard. It may be viewed more as entertainment.
    In four years, if you are in the US for the Olympics, I think you will likely look at the coverage there with a different eye. NBC features LOTS of US athletes. I am pleased that the BBC is covering all of the Olympic events in one form of media or another this year (which I think may be a first.) The exception, unfortunately, is the the Paraolympics is not likely to get much coverage at all.

  3. While it is disappointing that the Paraolympics doesn't much coverage, it is entirely understandable. After 17 days of constant Olympics coverage, viewers are ready to move on to different sports. By mid-August, baseball is heating up and both the NFL and NCAA football seasons are arriving. Even this year when NBC is getting the best Olympics ratings from a Games outside the United States since 1976, the demand is just not there.

    That being said, I do hope that NBC has at least one night of coverage that could showcase the highlights of the Paraolympics. It is definitely an important event and should be seen by American viewers.

    Plus, its not like NBC has a lot to lose. Even with the Olympics boost this year, it will be tough for them to finish the year anywhere but last among the big four networks in ratings.

  4. I agree here, especially since BBC is the only station that has broadcasting rights for the olympics in the UK. If they were one of many stations, I could understand them being biased in order to target a certain audience, but when the entire nation has to watch it, it can't appeal to everyone. England is so diverse that I'm sure we Americans aren't the only ones feeling shafted on our representation on BBC. I've always admired BBC on their ability to consistently tell the news without bias, so why shouldn't it be the same when they are broadcasting the olympics?

  5. As an American, I naturally wanted to see some coverage of American athletes, but... Can you blame them? I've watched the Olympic coverage in the United States and I would argue that we do mostly focus on our own athletes, but perhaps it isn't as obvious because in competitions such as swimming, we win a lot of medals and so it seems natural to cover our athletes. Team GB has a whole campaign going on currently about supporting the team and feeling pride for the country and the athletes. If there's one thing we excel at as Americans is being really proud of our people whether they're athletes or soldiers. On that note, while I was flying to France some French athletes were on the plane and they sat coach much to the sadness of a French man next to me who mourned that he wished France had the sort of pride and respect for its athletes that America did. He then went on to tell me about his experience being on a flight with a soldier returning from Afghanistan, and how the captain made an announcement and bumped the soldier up to first class. That's a different tangent entirely, but I think that given the fact that Team GB wasn't doing so well in the beginning especially and given that the Olympics are being hosted here, it makes sense the BBC is tailoring its coverage to Team GB.