A transatlantic view on the Olympic coverage

There were a few numbers recently unveiled in an interesting piece in The Guardian on Olympic media coverage.

There were a few numbers recently unveiled in an interesting piece in The Guardian on Olympic media coverage. The numbers were fascinating, as it showed not just the extent of global interest, but also how coverage can be conveyed to audiences, specifically in the case of Britain and America.

I’ll be looking at the media coverage of the Olympics and its approach in detail in a series of pieces for Kettle over the next few weeks. But first, I felt this was a starting point for this specific piece.

The first number—almost 28,000, the figure The Guardian reported of the number journalists expected at the Olympics in London when they kick off on the 27th of July. Global interest is strong, and this figure shows the importance of getting the Olympics to every country around the world to cheer and watch some of the best athletes compete.

The second number—2,700, the number of journalists being sent by just one outlet—the television network NBC, which owns the right to broadcast the Olympics in the United States. That number is over 3 times that of the BBC, which is sending 765 journalists to the Olympics.

These numbers allow a difference to be painted, comparing the BBC’s approach to the Olympics to NBC’s approach to the Olympics. NBC has been known, when looking at UK issues, to focus solely on items relating to the Royal Family, painting a very vague picture of the UK as a nation in order to suit an increasingly self-centered and celebrity-obsessed audience. Bearing that in mind, NBC is looking for ratings to ensure the Olympics is a profitable deal, not just for the network, but for its parent Comcast, a large cable company. NBC had recently renewed rights to the ceremonies through 2020, beating the alternative network Fox and the cable network ESPN. Perhaps the investment in journalists will allow for a reversal of the self-centered, celebrity-obsessed America, creating a better informed America through its enhanced understanding of the UK. However, I have my doubts.

The BBC also has an interesting scenario before it. The content that it produces will be for its audiences in the UK and around the world, allowing a very unique global view on the sport currently taking place. The commitment to broadcast through TV and radio services allow a complete picture signaling its slogan as the official Olympic broadcaster, interrupting on TV for traditional news bulletins according to the Guardian report. However, another report from The Guardian says the BBC may lose some or all of its coverage in the UK as reviews are underway by the International Olympic Committee on UK television rights. With the BBC facing a 20 percent reduction in its budget, it has affected how much it can spend on rights to specific sports. Considering the recent multi figure deal by BT for Premier League rights, anything can happen, and this coverage may provide reasons to the IOC why the BBC should keep the Olympics.

For the Olympic networks on each side of the pond, challenges are presented, with different views on how coverage should be done. However, in the end, the viewers and listeners will decide, through the pressing of a button, who has better coverage.