Criticism of the Sports News coverage of The Paralympics on our main channels is completely unwarranted and the difference between sports coverage and sports news coverage needs to be recognised and understood. All the major networks have included news items on paralympic success within their main bulletins and they have then revisited those stories in their sports news segments.
One has to keep in mind the question, “What is television news ?” The parameters here are no different to other countries. Recently when pitching a story in europe to a London based television news organisation I was told, “if it bleeds it leads”, and watching the UK’s main bulletins at 6pm, which incidentally run between 15 minutes and 30 minutes, I can guarantee that their sports news coverage would not be any more comprehensive than ours in relation to The Paralympics, and let’s not forget they are holding the event.
In addition they would be very unlikely to lead a national news bulletin with a paralympic story unless for example there was carnage in the wheelchair basketball. Personally I would like to see more coverage of the actual sporting events on SKY Sport, but that is a personal view and I can understand that not all avid sports viewers would agree.
Broadcasting coverage from London, in the same way as was done for the Olympics, might not equate commercially and that is surely a justifiable consideration for a private, commercial broadcaster like SKY TV. Perhaps some of the often wasted NZ on Air funding could have been applied to this area, but TVNZ or TV3 would have needed to put together a programme proposal, apply for that funding well in advance, and they would have had to have made a bid or an arrangement in regard to the rights, I don’t think that either of them went down this road.
However I think it’s important that those who are so vociferously demanding that we see more of The Paralympics on TV apply a modicum of perspective. It’s very easy to write on what one thinks broadcasters ‘should’ be showing. I do it all the time, but it’s not quite so easy to justify that against the viewing patterns of New Zealanders who sadly, in my view, have never expressed a quantifiable desire to watch programmes about the achievements of those within our society who constantly achieve, whilst up against far greater odds than most of us.
I thoroughly enjoy a programme called ‘attitude’ on TV ONE which constantly tells great stories, but I have to record it as it’s broadcast on at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning, probably because programmes like this do not attract kiwi viewers when positioned in primetime. However when half a million Kiwis sit down and watch the unadulterated, mindless and debilitating drivel that is The GC, and no doubt as many will tune in to ‘The Ridges’, what message are they sending to those that control our viewing habits? As those programmers are largely ratings-driven is it any wonder that they commission and churn out more?
Of course if our government set out better and firmer broadcasting guidelines for both the Public Broadcaster and the Commercial Channels, as authorities do in all other developed countries, then we would see a different, and I believe better standard of programming. However successive NZ governments have shown that they are not interested in any meaningful dialogue on broadcasting and so unless we, as viewers, voice our concerns on a far louder basis, a better broadcasting landscape is unlikely to be drawn any time soon.
I think it would have been an interesting exercise had SKY offered a Paralympic Channel package at say $10 for the duration of the games, I wonder if the people who love to be seen as supportive of the idea of more ‘paralympic’ viewing, would have been as quick to get their money out as they are to hit their keyboards on facebook and other social media.
The argument that you shouldn’t have to pay is spurious. Someone has to, be it the subscriber, the advertiser or the taxpayer. I’d like to see more drama on TV, more Arts programmes, but in the same way as I pay to go to the theatre or to a sports event. If I want to watch such programming I now pay for it. That’s life in NZ in 2012.
So if SKY TV had brought out such a package who would have subscribed? I would suggest the numbers willing to pay would be similar to those who actually give their time or money to organisations that help in this area as opposed to those who like to talk about doing so.
Instead of shooting the messengers, those in this instance who have brought us the stories of our paralympians, when you don’t like something ‘broadcast related’ or you think that a broadcaster has fallen short, perhaps you should email the Minister of Broadcasting. Finally he might begin to realise that NZ viewers would actually like to see some change in the content that ends up on the small screen.