Friday, August 27, 2004

Ohhh, Canada!

Back in 2000, many of my friends and colleagues, especially those on the left, commented on how they prefered the Canadian coverage of Sidney Olympics, largely because they thought it was less nationalist than that of the U.S. broadcasters. So this year I've been watching quite a bit of coverage of the Athens Olympics on CBC and comparing it to the U.S. coverage on NBC. In one respect, the CBC wins hands down since they actually broadcast many events live. Most of the finals run between noon and 4 PM EDT (7 and 11 PM in Athens). There is no reason why NBC can't do this, other than an unwillingness to sacrifice primetime ad revenues for the thrill of live coverage.

On the other hand, I've seen no evidence that the CBC is any less nationalistic than NBC. They are less pro-American, to be sure, but that doesn't mean that they stint on covering Canadians any less than NBC covers U.S. athletes.

The one clear distinction between CBC and NBC is how relentlessly downbeat the Canadian coverage is. Not only do they have fewer medal prospects than the U.S., but the Canadians have generally not performed very well in Athens. As a result, most of the Canadian coverage consists of stories of athletes failing to measure up in some way. After a few hours of this you want to start reaching for the Xanax with a bourbon chaser.

With NBC, on the other hand, there are more than enough medal winners to fill the coverage, so even if a particular U.S. athlete disappoints in some way, they can always move on to another, more successful, one.

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