Editorial: No-show Olympics
Paper Edition | Page: 6
Thanks to public broadcaster TVRI and YouTube, the global social media site that will be providing free live streaming, millions of Indonesian sports enthusiasts will have unlimited access to the medal race at the 30th Olympic Games in London, which kicks off tonight.
But why is this the case when TVRI relies solely on the state budget for its funding due to an advertisement ban, and YouTube sparked anger among Indonesian government officials and military generals last year for uploading footage of Army soldiers torturing Papuan civilians?
Where are the big-spending TV channels, which reap huge revenues from their broadcasts of thrilling but endless selections of new singing idols, slap-stick comedies and emotion-sapping soap operas? A television station that claims to be a sports channel proudly announced its successful bid for the right to broadcast the 2014 soccer World Cup in Brazil while its rival was airing live the 2012 Euro Cup soccer tournament.
The profit-oriented channels prefer fighting for exclusive licenses to air soccer-league action from Europe, Formula One and MotoGP races and professional boxing bouts, which indeed lure sponsorship.
For the third time in a row, the major broadcasters have refrained from offering live coverage of the Olympics, citing lack of sponsorship. They just ignore the fact that the Olympics is a must-watch, not-to-be-missed program as it features the best athletes from around the world. It is a multi-sporting event that every athlete dreams of competing in, let alone winning one or more medals for his or her country.
The repeated failure to broadcast the Olympics should amount to infringement of the public’s constitutional right to information, which broadcasters are obligated to fulfill merely because they use public frequencies.
TVRI came to the rescue just in the nick of time, as it had previously done with the Athens Olympics in 2004 and the Beijing Olympics four years ago. But due to its limited budget, the country’s oldest channel will only broadcast Olympic coverage for six hours a day: two hours early in the morning and two more in the afternoon and evening. The final matches in soccer, tennis, basketball and badminton — the only sport in which Indonesia stands a chance of winning a gold medal — will also be aired live.
But there is no guarantee Indonesian audiences will witness record-breaking performances by the participating Olympians or any of the national anthems being played during medal presentations. Remember when Taufik Hidayat won the gold medal in the badminton men’s singles at Athens? No Indonesian television channel, including TVRI, broadcast his struggle to win the laurels.
YouTube will help fill the gap, but sadly only for a few Indonesians who have the luxury of the high-speed Internet access needed to watch online live streaming; not to mention the quality of YouTube footage, which is far below that of television broadcasts. The International Olympic Committee is granting the special YouTube channel to provide 10 hours a day of coverage to audiences in 23 countries, listed as non-official broadcast partners, including Indonesia.
In the coming two weeks, many, if not most, Indonesians may be unaware that the Olympics is taking place. They will miss the historic moment of the first hijab-wearing female athletes from Arab countries making their Olympic debut; and they will miss Indonesia’s mixed doubles pair, Lilyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad, trying to keep the country in the gold medal club.
How can we expect people in this country to help develop national sports or, more philosophically, respect and promote sportsmanship, if their access to the Olympics is limited? The wealthy television channels have much to answer for.
Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.