Is NBC Censoring the Olympic Athletes?
Let’s just take a quick peek at the cost of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games:
Overall estimated costs: $2.5 billion
Security: $900 million
Media Center: $880 million
Opening Ceremony: $30-40 million
NBC paid $820 million for the broadcast rights to the Vancouver games. They estimate that they’ll lose around $250 million due to the high cost of the rights and the relatively low advertising revenue this time of year.
I find this interesting, since they took an undisclosed loss on the 2008 Beijing Games, and yet bought the rights for both 2010 and 2012 for a total of $2 billion.
How Does This Affect The Athletes?
Well, pretty much everyone there in a non-spectator capacity is subject to the IOC Blogging guidelines. You can read them for yourself here.
Suffice it to say that I was scared to breathe after reading that, and I’m nowhere near Vancouver! Sometime last week they issued an update, which condenses the four pages of rules into a few short paragraphs. They’re calling Twitter a short blog, and all the blogging rules from the previous document are in effect.
OK, let’s go over this quickly:
No picture or sound of the Games themselves, including opening/closing ceremonies or medal/flower ceremonies.
No pictures with the Rings in them (what, are they supposed to Photoshop them out?)
No photos of anyone besides yourself without the person’s permission.
Posts must be written in the first person because “only those persons accredited as media may act as journalists, reporters or in any other media capacity.”
That says to me that unless the athlete is saying something s/he just did, they can’t update on an event they’re watching, report the score of a game, or even say “Lindsey looks like she’s having a great time out there today”.
Do we think any of this has to do with the mainstream media’s vice grip on the news? God forbid that someone should scoop NBCs tape-delayed viewing of the Olympics. In the US, NBC and it’s subsidiaries are the only way to watch, including NBC, MSNBC, USA, and of course NBCOlympics.com.
This doesn’t bother me for the most part, but when athletes, most notably Lindsey Vonn, are afraid to Tweet because of the rules, I think we have a problem. Where’s the Olympic spirit in that?
And although the IOC issued an update that said athletes are “encouraged” to Tweet about their personal experience, who wants to screw up and get sanctioned?
If I were one of the athletes, my first thought would be that I’d worked too hard for the last four or more years to get yanked out of my event because I accidentally posted a picture with an unofficial sponsor behind me or with the rings in view.
What’s The Cost?
Well, primarily our cost is freedom of information. It’s the freedom of the athletes to share their excitement with their Twitter fans (which, in Lindsay Vonn’s case is over 35,000 people).
It drives me up a freaking wall that we sacrifice freedom in the name of profits. I know, I know, our freedoms have been steadily eroding for decades. Sometimes it just takes something that should be pure, like the Olympic Games, to highlight that fact.
But maybe that’s just the line I’ve been sold by the mainstream media.