Invisible Paralympics - US media criticised for its coverage, UK praised PDF Print

Posted: 7 September 2012

Region: Worldwide

paralympicsWhilst the British media are praised for its coverage of the Paralympic Games 2012, the US media have been criticised as well as these in Russia and Japan.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has said it is disappointed with the level of media coverage of the Games in the US, where the rights holder NBC not broadcasting it live.

In contrast to the more than 400 hours of coverage on Channel 4, 150 hours of it in prime time, the US broadcaster is showing four hour-long highlights packages on its NBC Sports channel. Even that is a vast improvement on previous US coverage, which was virtually non-existent, reports The Guardian.

Chris McCloskey, of NBC Sport, says the network has increased its coverage since the Beijing Paralympics and that the Games in London have to compete with other sporting events that have established and devoted audiences.

In 2008 the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from three Paralympians who had sued the United States Olympic Committee for stinginess towards disabled sport. Cultural attitudes are different, too: Barack Obama joked publicly in 2009 that his dire bowling skills suited him for the “special Olympics”, says The Economist.

"It's very disappointing. Great Britain is leading the way, as is the rest of Europe. We hope the Americans will see the value of these Games in time and increase the amount they broadcast," a spokesman of IPC said.

Despite its athletes’ success Russia provided only brief coverage, as did Japan’s main NHK network.

But attitudes can change swiftly. Though Russia still uses the outmoded invalidi to describe disabled people, it now sees the Paralympics as a source of national pride, reports The Economist.

The British Paralympic Association issued an advice to broadcasters, telling them not to dwell on competitors’ personal histories and to avoid comparing their performances with those of Olympic athletes.

It decried any comparisons with the “normality” of able-bodied athletes and blacklisted the phrases “suffer from” and “wheelchair-bound”.

Those without disability are not “able-bodied”, but, curiously, “non-disabled”. Debate even rages over the use of the word “brave”, which some consider patronising.

Channel 4 said it would cut its ties with Frankie Boyle, a comedian, for suggesting that the Saudi team might include thieves with amputated limbs. But on the same channel, as The Economist has noticed, Adam Hills, an Australian comedian, regularly joked about his prosthetic foot.

The IPC praised the volume of coverage generally and said the London Games 2012 had broken all records on its website. "We're absolutely ecstatic with the level of media coverage. The demand for new media has been insatiable." The IPC website has already had more hits than during the entire 2008 Games in Beijing.

As The Guardian reports, the London Paralympics is on the verge of being the first to sell out, with more than 2.4m of the 2.5m tickets sold.