Tag: Olympics

How NBC can make its future Olympic coverage better, instead of bashing millennials

During American television coverage of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, NBC and its affiliated cable networks (particularly NBC itself) produced an awful broadcast of the most significant international multi-sport event in the world. Even though Rio is only two hours ahead of U.S. Central Daylight Time during the month of August, the opening and closing ceremonies were broadcast on a tape delay (and heavily edited to remove some portions of both ceremonies), many events, even some popular events with popular athletes, were broadcast on a tape delay, if not pre-empted completely, many sports (such as rugby sevens and wrestling) did not have a single medal-earning event broadcast on over-the-air television, and, in some instances, NBC announcers acted in a sexist manner when talking about female athletes (notable examples of this include NBC swimming announcer Dan Hicks crediting the husband of the swimmer for a female Hungarian swimmer winning gold in the women’s 400m individual medley and one of the Golf Channel announcers referring to female American golfer Stacy Lewis as “grumpy”). Long story short, NBC did nearly everything to alienate millennials and feminists during the Olympics.

Instead of outlining plans to improve NBC’s coverage to adapt to modern society (many Americans found it easier to get Olympic results via Twitter and other social media websites than watching actual television coverage of the Games; in fact, #Rio2016 is still a trending hashtag on Twitter, even more than a week after the closing ceremony), NBC/Comcast executives are simply blaming millennials for the Olympic coverage’s low ratings.

While I enjoyed watching the Olympics this year, here are some of my complaints about the Olympic coverage on NBC and its affiliated cable networks (I’m not considering factors that are completely out of NBC’s control, such as weather delays/event postponements and the quality of the world feeds that Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS) provides to each country’s Olympic broadcast rights-holder):

Too much volleyball on network television!

If it weren’t for NBC providing quite a bit of time covering sports like track and field and swimming and NBC’s affiliated cable channels airing many other sports, American television viewers would think that the Summer Olympics were nothing more than a couple of indoor and beach volleyball tournaments, since volleyball (both indoor and beach), compromised a large amount of NBC’s over-the-air coverage of the games. The Olympics should be treated as the multi-sport event that it is, not as a glorified tournament for a single sport.

Too few medal events on network television!

In a surprisingly large number of Olympic sports that were part of the 2016 summer program, not a single medal-earning event aired on the over-the-air NBC network. Among the sports that were, to my knowledge, not seen on American English-language over-the-air television include tennis (although cable channel Bravo acted as a de facto Olympic tennis channel during the Games), rugby sevens (which bounced around between several different cable channels to the point of confusing American rugby fans), judo, taekwondo (I don’t recall any English-language television broadcast of taekwondo in the U.S. during the games), wrestling, boxing, badminton, table tennis, modern pentathlon, soccer (probably the most popular Olympic sport not broadcast over-the-air in the U.S.) and sailing (I also don’t recall any English-language television broadcast of sailing in the U.S. during the games).

Too much tape-delaying!

Tape-delaying the opening and closing ceremonies is a slap to the face to American television viewers. Also, even some of the more popular Olympic sports here in the U.S., such as gymnastics and diving, got the ol’ Memorex treatment from NBC.

NBC’s imperialist attitude towards the Games

NBC thinks that, because they spent a bunch of money to secure U.S. Olympic broadcasting rights until the Games of the XXXV Olympiad of 2032 (host city to be determined), they can single-handedly control every single thing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the organizers of a particular Olympic Games does. A notable example of this was when NBC tried to bully the Rio Olympic organizers into conducing the Parade of Nations (which occurs during the opening ceremony) with the countries entering in English alphabetical order, despite the fact that the host country, Brazil, is a predominantly Portuguese-speaking country (the Portuguese-language name for the United States begins with the letter “E”, not the letter “U” like it does in English), and English is not a commonly-spoken language in Brazil. The Olympic organizers rejected that idea almost immediately, and NBC insulted American viewers by claiming that many American viewers simply change the channel or turn off the TV once the U.S. Olympic team enters the site of the opening ceremony during the Parade of Nations.

Here’s some of my suggestions to NBC for how to improve their Olympic coverage:

Air as many medal-earning events on the NBC over-the-air network either live in their entirety, live-but-joined in progress, or on as short of a tape delay as practically possible

Instead of structuring the NBC over-the-air Olympic broadcast schedule around the schedules of local NBC affiliates or to avoid airing Olympic events in the U.S. overnight hours, NBC should schedule 15 straight hours of Olympic coverage on most days in a time block corresponding to an 8 A.M. to 11 P.M. time block in the host city’s local time. Exceptions to this are any pre-opening ceremony prelims (which would be aired on NBCSN), and the days of the opening and closing ceremonies (opening and closing ceremonies would be aired live on NBC, regardless of time of day; during day of closing ceremony, coverage of the final medal-earning events would run until the conclusion of final medal event). If NBC were to use this broadcast pattern for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the NBC live broadcast window would run from 5 P.M. on one day to 8 A.M. the next day U.S. Central Standard Time. This would allow 9 hours per day for NBC affiliates to air a 30-minute local newscast, a 30-minute NBC network newscast, FCC-mandated educational programming (3 hours-per-week mandate), and three hours of tape-delayed NBC Olympic highlights. Assuming that the children’s programming is aired in a late-morning slot in 90-minute blocks on both weekend days, that would leave no fewer than four and a half hours for affiliates to air syndicated programming and/or additional local newscasts (six hours on weekdays). Airing the FCC-mandated educational programming in an approved time slot (sometime between 7 A.M. and 10 P.M.) would be a challenge if an American host city or another country that was one hour ahead of part of the United States, and would probably require the FCC and/or Congress to grant every NBC affiliate in the country a temporary waiver to the E/I rule that would only apply during the Olympics. In the absence of such a waiver, scheduling either a single 13 1/2-hour live block of two days of the week, a single 14-hour live block on three days of the week, or adopting a split time block arrangement of some kind, with educational programming inserted between blocks of network Olympic coverage.

Most importantly, gold medal-earning events would be prioritized, regardless of sport, and at least one gold medal-earning event in every Olympic sport and discipline contested in a particular year would be televised on over-the-air television. Secondary priority would be given to events that are not gold medal-earning events, but events where silver and/or bronze medals are at stake. No preliminary events would air on over-the-air television.

Prioritize actual sporting events over interviews, documentary-style feature segments, etc.

Leave the interviews and documentary-style feature segments to either the over-the-air highlights show or, if filler material between medal events is needed, during the 15-hour over-the-air live block between medal events. Also, interviews and feature segments should be no more than 5 minutes in length.

Use NBCSN to air any medal events that can’t be aired on NBC

NBC’s primary cable television outlet for sports broadcasting is, indisputably, NBCSN, so, if there’s Olympic events being played, NBCSN should be on-air and, if practically possible, live with either a medal-earning event that NBC is unable to air or a featured preliminary event. NBCSN is a cable channel, not an over-the-air channel, so it isn’t bound by FCC regulations on educational programming.

CNBC, USA, and, if needed, MSNBC, Bravo, and Golf Channel can serve as dedicated channels for some of the more popular Olympic sports

In recent Summer Olympiads, Bravo has served as a de facto Olympic tennis channel and Golf Channel aired the 2016 Olympic golf events in their entirety. MSNBC could serve as a dedicated Olympic gymnastics channel during the Summer Olympics, CNBC could serve as a dedicated track-and-field channel during the Summer Olympics and a dedicated ice hockey channel during the Winter Olympics, and USA could serve as a dedicated swimming channel during the Summer Olympics and a dedicated curling channel during the Winter Olympics. Any non-Olympic sporting events (such as NASCAR and English Premier League soccer) could be aired on The Weather Channel commercial-free (although 2-to-3-minute weather updates by The Weather Channel’s on-air personnel would be inserted where commercials ordinarily would be inserted).

Give each sport at least one dedicated cable channel during the Olympics, so that those with a cable or satellite television package that includes NBCSN and a willing cable or satellite provider would be able to watch the Olympics a la carte, with every event televised live and in its entirety

NBC offers cable and satellite providers stand-alone Olympic soccer and basketball channels during the Summer Olympics, so why not do so for every other Summer Olympic sport and every Winter Olympic sport during the Games? One channel could be devoted to ceremonies (opening ceremony, closing ceremony, medal ceremonies, gymnastics gala in the summer, and figure skating gala in the winter), and each Olympic sport and discipline contested in a particular season would get as many channels dedicated to it as needed in order to air every single Olympic event live and in its entirety, even if there’s delays or postponements forcing schedule changes and/or it means effectively simulcasting NBC or an affiliated cable channel

Limit commercials to no more than four minutes per hour

If CBS can air 56 minutes of golf per hour during The Masters, than NBC and its affiliated broadcasting platforms should be able to air 56 minutes of sporting competition per hour for a much larger sporting event.

Respect the Olympics and the athletes who participate in it

Even if NBC were to air only thirty minutes of black-and-white film coverage of a future Summer or Winter Games roughly 18 months after the conclusion of the Games, they should at least have their on-air personnel respect the Games and the athletes who participate in the Games, who come from many different countries and backgrounds.

 

San Jose Mercury News can’t say the name Simone Manuel

Make no mistake about it, Simone Manuel became the first black American woman to win an individual gold medal in the sport of swimming when she won the women’s 100 meter (109.3613 yard) freestyle swimming event at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There were actually two gold medalists in the event, as Manuel tied Canadian Penny Oleksiak for the gold medal position. In Olympic swimming, a tie occurs when two or more swimmers post the same time, measured to hundredths of a second. When a tie occurs in Olympic swimming for a medal position, all tied competitors receive a medal of the same color (gold for a tie for first, silver for a tie for second, and bronze for a tie for third).

However, The Mercury News, a newspaper covering the San Jose, California area, used this headline to document Manuel’s historic victory:

Not only is that headline factually incorrect, it’s racist and sexist. First off, Manuel and Michael Phelps never shared an Olympic podium, as men and women compete in swimming events. In fact, the only Olympic sport (summer or winter) in which there are not separate competitions for men and women is equestrian (although a few Olympic sports, such as tennis (summer) and curling (winter, starting in 2018) have events featuring mixed-gender teams competing against each other, and modern pentathlon, of which equestrian is one of the five component sports, has separate men’s and women’s competitions). Secondly, The Mercury News was unwilling to use the name of a black woman who won the event in its headline, but had no problem using the name of a white man who wasn’t eligible to compete in the event in its headline.

The corporate media isn’t willing to say any part of her name, but I am more than willing to say the full name of my favorite Olympic champion of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad so far: Simone Ashley Manuel.

Hillary goes for campaign ad gold during the Olympics

While the Olympics are supposed to be an apolitical sporting event, the truth of the matter is that politics has often been at the forefront of the Olympics. While political campaigning isn’t an Olympic sport (and, in my opinion, shouldn’t be, since politics is not an athletic competition), Hillary Clinton is running a lot of television ads during American television coverage of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Most of the Hillary ads that I’ve seen during Olympic coverage have been on either NBC or NBCSN (although I’ve seen Hillary ads on CNBC as well during the Olympics), and Hillary’s ads have aired during commercial breaks of Olympic programming blocks without any real regard to what sports are being aired during the programming blocks in question. I’ve seen Hillary ads during Olympic programming blocks at many different times of day and have included swimming, gymnastics, rugby, fencing, cycling, water polo, diving, table tennis, golf, and beach volleyball, just to name a few sports. Some sports, such as track & field and golf, are scheduled for later in the Games. All of the national political ad buys have been from the official Hillary campaign committee; I have yet to see an ad from a pro-Hillary/anti-Trump political action committee (PAC), the Donald Trump presidential campaign, or a pro-Trump/anti-Hillary political action committee.

Most of the ads that Hillary is running during the Olympics are aimed at blue-collar progressives. The positive ad that Hillary most frequently uses is an ad detailing her plan to reign in greed on Wall Street. The negative ad that Hillary most frequently uses is an ad featuring a clip from the David Letterman-era CBS Late Show attacking Trump over the Trump line of clothing being manufactured in foreign countries where workers earn, on average, much lower wages than workers in the United States.

In addition to the national Hillary ad buys, my local NBC affiliate (WAND-TV) has aired pro-Tammy Duckworth (from Duckworth’s official campaign committee) and anti-Tammy Duckworth (from a Republican political action committee of some kind) ads, but those ad buys were sold by the local affiliate because Duckworth is running for U.S. Senate here in Illinois. Duckworth’s ads air mainly, but not exclusively, in the NBC primetime Olympic programming block on my local NBC affiliate.

The first Olympic broadcast on U.S. television lasted only 28 minutes

AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: This blog post contains a video that is in the public domain due to said video being an official work of the United States federal government.

AUTHOR’S NOTE #2: For the purposes of this blog post, “Games of the Olympiad” refer to the Summer Olympics.


Starting Wednesday, August 3 at 9:30 A.M. CDT (10:30 A.M. EDT), NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air a round-robin stage women’s soccer match between Sweden and South Africa in the women’s soccer tournament at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. NBCSN’s broadcast of the first event of this year’s Olympics kicks off a whopping 6,755 hours of combined television and internet livestream coverage (schedule here) across several broadcast and cable/satellite networks that are part of the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal media conglomerate and the NBC Olympics website. Since Rio is only two hours ahead of U.S. Central Daylight Time during the month of August (due to Rio being south of the equator, Rio observes daylight savings time from mid-October to mid-February, not in August), much, but not all, of NBC’s Olympic coverage in 2016 will air live. NBC Olympic television coverage will air in English on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Bravo, Golf Channel, NBC Olympic 4K, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, and NBC Olympic Basketball Channel, and in Spanish on Univision and NBC Universo.

However, NBCUniversal’s extensive coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics pales in comparison to the minimal U.S. television coverage that the 1952 Summer Olympics received. However, what little television coverage that American viewers saw of the Helsinki Olympics of 1952 was, to my knowledge, the very first time the Olympics was broadcast on American television in any form.

The first time the Olympic Games were broadcast on American television was a 28 minute broadcast (not counting any commercials that may have aired on the television broadcast) of a documentary about the Games of the XV Olympiad in Helsinki, Finland in 1952, which officially opened on July 19, 1952 and officially closed on August 3 of the same year. Back then, there was no high-definition coverage, there was no digital television coverage, there was no color television coverage, there was no live coverage of the Games, there was no Spanish-language coverage, there was no coverage of Olympic events during the Games, and there wasn’t even television coverage of the Games during the year in which they were held! Instead, American television viewers saw a documentary, produced by the U.S. Army as part of the television documentary series The Big Picture, circa early 1954 (exact air date is lost to time, although the episode in question was the fifth episode following a Christmas-themed episode dated 1953), approximately one and a half years after the closing ceremony of the Helsinki Olympics! The production was a black-and-white documentary, with English-language narration provided by members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps (USASC), of highlights of the Helsinki Olympics. The highlights focused mainly on members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were competing for Team USA in the Helsinki Olympics.

According to Central Illinois television historian and WCCU-TV weather anchor Doug Quick, The Big Picture was aired across the ABC network, although some broadcast stations that either were affiliated with other networks or were independent broadcast stations aired the program as a syndicated program as well. It’s not clear which stations, or even how many stations, aired episode TV-250 of The Big Picture, which is the episode containing the documentary about the Helsinki Olympics.

You can watch the full documentary of the Games of the XV Olympiad here:

Boston 2024 Olympic organizers are in full damage control mode

As a result of a brilliant anti-Olympic campaign by No Boston Olympics and a large number of issues that have been publicly raised with the Boston 2024 Summer Olympic bid, a recent opinion poll found that only 36% of Boston-area voters support the bid.

The growing opposition to the Boston Olympic bid has brought the bid’s future into doubt and has left bid organizers in full damage control mode.

First, the Boston 2024 Olympic organizers have publicly called for a statewide referendum to be held in Massachusetts in November of 2016, at the same time as the 2016 general election for president. However, only the Massachusetts General Court, the state legislature of Massachusetts, can legally refer an up-or-down vote on the Boston Olympic bid to voters. This is because the initiative process at the state level in Massachusetts is limited to instructing the legislature to enact or repeal laws, although the bid organizers may use this option to get a referendum on the ballot. Additionally, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin has publicly stated that he’d like to see a referendum on the Boston Olympic bid to be held in March of 2016.

Second, the Boston city government is currently in the midst of a series of nine “community hearings”, and that city officials expect the bid organizers to make some changes to the plans for the Boston Olympic bid once the final “community hearing” is held later this year. However, no specific changes to the bid plans have been officially made at this time. Additionally, some have publicly criticized the “community hearings” for being more about promoting the Boston Olympic bid than actually listening to the concerns of Boston residents.

Third, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) is trying to deny reports by The Wall Street Journal that the USOC may withdraw the Boston 2024 bid altogether if public support for the bid remains low. Although anything published by The Wall Street Journal should be taken with a grain of salt, this appears to be damage control by the USOC.

Bostonians have more important concerns, such as improving the local mass transit system, than hosting an international multi-sport event. That’s why the Boston 2024 Olympic bid is failing, and organizers are in full damage control mode.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh violates First Amendment rights of public employees at the behest of the U.S. Olympic Committee

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has signed a decree, at the behest of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), prohibiting Boston city employees from speaking against the Boston bid for the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad, commonly known as the 2024 Summer Olympics:

If you’re a Boston city employee, there’s now an official decree: Don’t badmouth the Olympics.

Documents obtained by the (Boston) Globe through a public records request to City Hall show Mayor Martin J. Walsh has signed a formal agreement with the United States Olympic Committee that bans city employees from criticizing Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games.

The “joinder agreement” forbids the city of Boston and its employees from making any written or oral statements that “reflect unfavorably upon, denigrate or disparage, or are detrimental to the reputation” of the International Olympic Committee, the USOC, or the Olympic Games.

Instead, the USOC and the Walsh administration must “work cooperatively together to manage, complete, and promote” the city’s bid to the International Olympic Committee. Boston city employees “shall each promote” the city’s bid “in a positive manner,” the agreement adds.

Make no mistake about it, this is a blatant violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that is part of an ongoing War on the First Amendment by Republicans, corporate Democrats, right-wing judges, political elites, and now the U.S. Olympic Committee. For Marty Walsh, who was supported by Elizabeth Warren in his 2013 Boston mayoral campaign, to do the USOC’s bidding and effectively censor the voices of public employees for political reasons is a disgusting backstab to those who voted him into office.

This is the kind of authoritarian politics I expect from Republicans like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, not from Democrats like Marty Walsh.

Despite strong opposition from the community, Boston selected as U.S. bid for 2024 Summer Olympics

Despite strong, organized opposition from Bostonians, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has officially nominated the Boston 2024 Olympic bid as the U.S. bid for the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad, more commonly known as the 2024 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select the host city sometime in 2017 at an IOC meeting in Lima, Peru; this vote is currently scheduled for September 15, 2017. The Boston bid will compete against bids by Rome, Italy, either Berlin, Germany or Hamburg, Germany, and possibly several bids by other cities in other countries for the IOC’s selection.

Make no mistake about it, the only way I would support a Boston Olympic bid is if it went to a statewide referendum in Massachusetts, preferably one held at the same time as the 2016 presidential election, and won.

Past Olympics, most notably the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics, and the Montreal 1976 Summer Olympics, have become notorious for large amounts of money, including the taxpayer money of the host country’s citizens, being spent on venues that were built specifically for one or more Olympic sports and are/were of little or no post-Olympic use. Especially in the case of Athens 2004, many venues were left vacant, but still standing, after the games, becoming public eyesores and a symbol of the collapse of the Greek economy that was triggered by the Great Recession. It’s also worth noting that the last city of comparable size to Boston that hosted a Summer Olympics was Athens in 2004, in fact, Boston is a slightly smaller city than Athens (Boston has a population of 617,594 per the 2010 U.S. Census, Athens has a population of 664,606 per the 2011 Greek Census).

I am calling for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts General Assembly to put a statewide referendum on the ballot, preferably scheduled for the same time as the November 2016 presidential election, on whether or not Boston should be allowed to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Additionally, I am calling for the Boston 2024 Olympic organizers to use as little federal, state, and local taxpayer money as possible, utilize as many pre-existing sports venues as possible, and to have a plan in place for post-Olympic use for every single permanent venue that will be utilized and/or built for the 2024 Olympics if Boston were to be selected by the IOC to host the Games.