After so many years of embracing independent media, if you think that big media’s stranglehold on the world is loosening, then you’d be wrong, and the Olympics are a primary example.
Time zones are always a problem when reporting world wide news events, but most of the world understand this and just deal with it. Something broadcast from Australia, say APEC or some such, gets broadcast on Australian time, and if this means evening in Europe, the middle of the night for the U.S., or daytime for Asia, then so be it. The current conflict in Georgia? During the day in Europe and Asia, but middle of the night for the U.S.
The rest of world recognises that time zones exist, and that sometimes they work for you and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they fall during television’s prime time, and sometimes they don’t. Unless of course you’re U.S. broadcaster NBC, in which case you can simply pay to make sure world events, in this case the Olympics, happen in U.S. television prime time.
Let’s just put this into perspective. A television broadcaster has paid money so that a news event will take place in prime time.
Traditionally, at a swim meet, the heats are run during the day, and the finals are held at night. That’s the way it’s always been, regardless of where they’re held, and regardless of where they’re broadcast. Yet NBC has the power to change the Olympics so that the finals are held during the day, and the heats are held at night, so that they sync up with U.S. time of heats during the day and finals at night. And they’ve done the same with a whole range of events, including the gymnastics and the marathons.
In Australia, we’re only a few hours ahead of Bejing time, so the traditional timing for the swimming would have been perfect, heats during the day, and then finals at night. But with the U.S. pandering in place, we now have the finals being run at lunch time Australian time.
For us, the swimming is where we excel, it’s what we do, and we generally have a passion for swimming more than any other sport. It’s a tradition for us, especially when we usually beat the U.S. swimmers.
But not this time. On one of those rare occasions when a world wide event actually occurs in a good time zone for us, we’re now stuck with most of our population not actually being able to see the swim finals because they’re being held at lunch time.
NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol is one of the key people to blame. In an interview with The Guardian, he said:
In the first conversation that I had with the new head of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, I told him that it would be almost impossible for an American network bidding on the games in the future … not to have some way to have ‘live’ happen. … I emphasised from the beginning that it was important to us, if possible, to have swimming and gymnastics work this way.
But it’s not just NBC who’s to blame. Obviously it was the IOC, traditionally as bent and corrupt as the drug cheats they keep ranting about, that had to agree to the change, because the Chinese certainly don’t need the money. Co-incidentally of course, the change in schedule means that the swim finals will now broadcast in Europe in the late afternoon and early evening, not such a bad compromise for them.
Now the swimmers themselves aren’t particularly impressed with the situation either. All their competitive lives they’ve been used to swimming heats in the day and finals at night, and now that’s been completely flipped on it’s head. So much so that swimmers are saying they rarely reach their peek until the night, and so world records won’t tumble as much as they usually do under the new schedule. Yet obviously NBC don’t care if the performances are watered down, so long as it’s watered down in prime time.
Big media is still in charge, they’ve integrated citizen media into their model, and they still control everyone who counts. Meanwhile the world keeps on spinning, and still the world’s news events just happen to occur more often than not in U.S. prime time. Their demise cannot come too soon.
With the U.S. credibility around the world at it’s lowest point ever, and their financial markets completely crumbling, when will big U.S. media lose its stranglehold on what world events happen outside U.S. borders?