The trials of Olympic broadcasting

When International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge visited the International Broadcasting Center in Maroussi last Thursday, he praised coverage of the Games by the state media: «I always watch ERT,» he said. Not all viewers share Rogge’s enthusiasm. In fact, the more viewers know about sports, the more they complain. Pointing out mistakes is not, however, an indication of an incurable penchant for grumbling, but a measure of the high standards viewers demand from Olympic media coverage. Let us not forget mistakes are part of the game. Leading athletes make childish mistakes, false starts, they trip themselves up. Within the 1,100 hours of viewing time on ERT (of which 650 are live), it is only natural that there are mistakes, omissions and gaffes, verbal and technical mistakes, programming errors and mistakes in coordination between the three state television channels. Some are disappointing, others comic and others unacceptable, such as a temporary loss of image. Responsibility for radio and television coverage lies mainly with the Athens Olympic Broadcasting firm, headed by the experienced Manolo Romero. However, the choice of event to be broadcast among the dozens going on at the same time lies with ERT’s «zappers,» who first have to abide by the Olympic broadcasting program announced a year ago, then be flexible enough to move focus onto the successes of Greek athletes and, finally, to satisfy the average person’s preferences, since some sports are just not as interesting to us here in Greece, or in the realm of the exotic. Generally, ERT has risen to the occasion. The program is comprehensive, images spectacular. This, along with fact the opening ceremony was broadcast again last Thursday, without commentary but with a clearer sound, shows the state media has an elementary sensitivity and can admit its mistakes (whether indirectly and symbolically, or directly, as with the resignations of its officials after broadcasting breakdowns). The private channels, of course, have a disadvantage. They do not have the rights to live broadcasts and run only brief excerpts, and have had their share of tragicomic (to downright outrageous) moments.

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