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Controlling the Cameras: The Networks, Coverage and BOCOG at the Goldfish Olympics

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Ok, there will be all these TV journalists at the Olympics, but will they be able to set up their cameras? This is explored in a useful article by Richard Spencer in the Telegraph on the issue of camera locations and philosophies of broadcasters. The BBC policy on coverage of protests has something of a dog bites man quality.

According to Spencer, "The BBC, the only British broadcaster with access to stadiums this summer, says it cannot be expected to hide demonstrations if they happen at events where they have cameras." They would be expected to cover the Olympics, "warts and all."

The BBC's Dave Gordon, head of major sports events, told Spencer that Beijing had become "more difficult"' for broadcasters than the Moscow Games in 1980. It's doubtful that the Olympic broadcasting agency that will provide the only feed of the sporting events would show footage of protests if they occurred. "They fudge the question," Gordon was reported to have said. "They won't commit to saying yes, they will cover it or no, they will not cover it." Spencer reminds us that "China has a 50 per cent share, along with the International Olympic Committee, in the official Games broadcaster, Beijing Olympic Broadcasting."

Who will have cameras in the sports venues, and who will call the shots? Gordon told Spencer that it was unthinkable that if BBC cameras in the stadium picked up a protest it would not be shown. "We have to cover the Olympics warts and all."

Spencer also interviewed Jeff Ruffolo, a public relations adviser to the Beijing Organizing Committee (there must be many) who, according to the Telegraph, said that if foreign broadcasters filmed protests there was nothing Beijing could do. "If a television camera takes a picture of a guy holding up a sign and no one else has a picture, they are going to use it," Ruffolo said.

The inspiration for all this concern was a late-May meeting with BOCOG reported in the Wall Street Journal that covers much the same territory but bringing in, among other things, an NBC perspective.

Otherwise, it's beginning to be the silly season:

My favorite Olympics story of the month: "Beijing Olympics unofficial live goldfish keyrings are cruel, say RSPCA," in the Telegraph.

The paper also carried this story: "Chinese man sticks 2008 needles in his head to mark Beijing Olympic Games," apparently to no cruelty-related complaints.

And last week, the Independent asked, "What's in a name? With the Olympics penetrating the Chinese national psyche ever deeper, "Aoyun", or "Olympic Games", has become a popular name for babies, threatening traditional favourites such as "Defend China" or "Celebrate the Nation". Others have been named after the Games' mascots: Bei Bei, Jing Jing, Huan Huan, Ying Ying and Ni Ni.

The paper also accused Gordon Brown of committing the crime of fine-line semiotics in declining to go to the Beijing Opening Ceremony, but agreeing to go to the Closing.

Of further interest: an essay by Professor Victor D. Cha, in the Washington Quarterly, "Beijing's Olympic-Sized Catch 22," a comprehensive treatment of the kinds of issues treated in this blog, and a radio interview Stan Woodard of WORT-FM, Madison, Wisconsin had with me on June 17, 2008. (I'm about 13 minutes in).


Read more HuffPost coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games