Thursday, 6 September 2012

Watching the London Paralympics in the USA

This week and last week the US media has been focused on the Republican and Democratic Conventions, respectively. As TV news in the USA is not required to be impartial, unlike in the UK, each channel has its own spin and angle on the events in Tampa and Charlotte, which are also streamed comment-free on C-SPAN. There really is a super-serving of political rhetoric on US screens. It's a far cry from the staid UK political party conferences: Gearing up to the US election is a TV broadcasting sport.

And talking of sport and TV broadcasting, there has been no spin or angle on the Paralympics, which officially opened last week. My experience of watching the London Paralympics in the USA has been non-existent. At one point some footage of the Paralympics did catch my eye on TV, and I realized it was a BBC America news bulletin. I don't think that quite counts. At least the interwebz came to the rescue.

While some folks on Twitter were going wild over Obama's appearance on Reddit, the Paralympics opening ceremony was taking place and being broadcast on Channel 4, the UK's public/private terrestrial TV channel. British viewers, perhaps spoiled after the generous helping of sports broadcasting from the BBC, did not appreciate the trappings of commercial broadcasting:

Random screenshot of random Tweeters (ie I don't know any of them)

This reminded me of my reaction to watching the Olympics opening ceremony on NBC. Not only was I experiencing such a spectacle from another country's perspective for the first time, I was experiencing it with commercials for the first time. The commercials were a nuisance, but not enough to ruin the experience. Certainly not as much as a tape-delay, or discovering that whole sections of the event had been cut to squeeze the commercials in. And certainly not as much as discovering that scraping Twitter would be as close as I'd get to seeing the Paras ceremony.

I was further amused when some viewers expressed renewed appreciation for public television (which is an entirely different concept here in the USA):

UK broadcaster Tony Blackburn.
"Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows"
That last one, yes, is Scottish author of Trainspotting Irvine Welsh bemoaning the quality of his 600 US TV channels. US TV has succeeded in making political broadcasting a sport, and international sport broadcasting an eerie spectre; I know it's happening somewhere but I just can't see it.

1 comment:

  1. This too was my first time watching an Olympics without the BBC and I hated it. Long story short I used to swim competitively and love Michael Phelps and was in tears because I missed 20 percent of his swims and the rest were tape delayed by the idiots that run NBC... I didn't even watch the games this year after being so excited about them being in London. *sigh*