September 20, 2000

Breakout


I happened to catch a short interview on CNN this morning. The topic was why the TV ratings for the Olympics are lower than expected, and the news anchor was talking to an ad executive and a senior associate editor of TV Guide magazine.

The transcript of the interview is on the CNN website. Whatever else can be said for or against CNN, they have a wonderfully comprehensive website with just about everything they've ever mentioned on the air, and they never seem to delete anything.

Part of the problem (if the low ratings can indeed be construed as a problem rather than as a clue) is that NBC isn't broadcasting live. By the time events get on the air in prime time, the suspense is lost and the outcome is long known. I heard in a radio news report that Americans who live near Canadian border stations are defecting to the CBC in droves, since it is staying on the air all night, broadcasting live. Canadian cable sports network TSN is also covering live events.

Not everyone can stay up all night, but VCR's can tape events which can then be watched, if not as it happens, at least unedited.

The part of the interview that set off the lights in my head was the discussion with the TV Guide editor. The anchor mentioned that there was no "big story" for NBC to cover "in terms of an American perspective".. that the "breakout" athlete so far was Ian Thorpe, the Australian swimmer.

To which the editor replied:

Right, and that's a great story. But I think Americans really want an American, and especially since there's been no gymnast, which we are used to having, young girl, a Mary Lou Retton, breakout character.

Americans really want an American?

Is this man, who participates in editing one of the most widely circulated magazines in the U.S., which covers one of the most influential media, saying that Americans are incapable of appreciating accomplishments unless they're performed by their own countrymen? Is he saying that Americans cannot identify with, applaud for, and celebrate with a "breakout character" unless that athlete represents the United States?

Americans: your media is selling you short. They are grossly underestimating your intelligence, attention span, and character.
Are Canadians, Australians, and others who appreciate excellence no matter where it comes from, better than you? (Much as I'd like to say so, I seriously think not.)

Your media is like a jealous lover. Your media is isolating you from the rest of the world. It is spoon-feeding you processed images of what it wants you to see. Can you say, Propaganda?

I don't know who's in charge here.. who first had the idea that Americans only wanted to see other Americans, only in a convenient time slot, just show me the finish line and we're done. It's good to see NBC falling on their face and losing ad revenue if this is how they treat their viewers.

I'm no longer angry AT Americans because of their often insular attitude. Now I'm angry FOR them.

Linque Du Jour:   Some internationally-oriented Olympic Web Sites

So you can see what you've been missing..

Sydney Games - an Australian site
The OFFICIAL Site of the Sydney Olympics
Just for fun.. the CBC site

By the way I checked out the CNN-SI website.. Olympics 2000 is listed under the US Sports category (!!!) Once you get in there, though, it's not too bad.

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