Team Blog

Paralympics vs Olympics coverage: uneven at best

The coverage given to the Paralympics was, in some countries, only 10% of that dedicated to the Olympics. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport

This is my last blog piece about the Paralympics and so I should finally look at the media coverage. Sitting in North America is was nearly a non-event given the invisibility in the traditional media. The below is a summary of the Paralympics television coverage in Canada:

The Games will kick-off with a two-hour Opening Ceremony extravaganza on August 29, which will be carried live on RDS2 beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST (plus an encore presentation on RDS on August 30 at 6:30am EST), and later in the day at 9 p.m. EST on TSN2 and on AMI with described video.

CTV will also air the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, September 1 at 1 p.m. (2 p.m. in Saskatchewan). Félix Séguin and Canada’s Chef de Mission Dr. Gaétan Tardif will call the Opening Ceremony on RDS2 while Paul Romanuk and Canada’s Assistant Chef de Mission Elisabeth Walker-Young will provide English language commentary.

A daily highlights show showcasing the day’s performances, medal winners, athlete interviews and event features will be hosted by Romanuk and broadcast from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST August 30th to September 8th between TSN2 and Sportsnet ONE. AMI will provide the highlights with description service. Séguin will host RDS2’s daily highlights for francophones also at 11 p.m. EST most days.

Viewers will also be able to watch a repeat of the previous day’s show on RDS at 8:30 or 10 a.m. EST daily. Complete coverage of the Closing Ceremony on September 9, will also be available on Sportsnet ONE and AMI at 9 p.m. EST with Romanuk and Walker-Young again providing commentary. Séguin and Tardif will also team up once more on RDS for the Closing Ceremony airing at 2 pm one day later on September 10.

Additionally, two of the features from the Consortium’s Difference Makers series will feature Paralympians. Hosted by Rick Hansen (English) and Chantal Petitclerc (French), the series asks elite athletes to reveal inspiring stories of those who made a difference in their lives.“

In summary very little live coverage took place on TV in Canada.

The situation in the US was just as bad if not worse. ESPN’s main sport channel in the US did not cover the Paralympics.

For younger people who look more at streaming media on the internet the situation was better because events were streamed at Paralympic.org and as well on YouTube but this method of dissemination only reaches a very particular sub-group of the population.

As for newspapers, of roughly 300 Canadian newspapers present in the academic database "Canadian newsstand” from August 28-September 07, 200 news articles covered the Paralympics.

5,488 articles appeared during the Olympics (July 26-Aug 12) in the same 300 newspapers. Although the Olympics was spread over more days than the Paralympics numbers indicate that the coverage of the Paralympics was less than 10% of the Olympics.

In Germany it was reported that the coverage was roughly half of the Olympics, in the UK it was even higher.

If one does a comparison between all countries one will find huge differences of coverage which I submit is very problematic. How does one achieve equality in coverage? I leave that to the reader to answer.

To come back to the trickle-down effect or the lack of it I covered in one of my analysis pieces as part of the Paralympic coverage of the Conversation.

It will be interesting to perform some studies down the road to see whether there is a correlation between level of coverage of the Paralympics and how they were covered (internet vs newspapers vs TV) and a change in attitude towards disabled people and how if at all sport participation of disabled people on all levels changed.

Does media coverage has any influence especially long term? I covered a few surveys performed in the UK before the Paralympics (covered in a blog piece) that covered attitude reality and expectations. Question is, if people are interviewed again in a year will their expectations have been met and will their attitude towards disabled people have changed for the better?

Question is whether being a spectator in the Paralympics leads one to become an activist joining disabled people; or were the spectators at the Paralympics reflecting the activist already in existence?

Many studies can be and should be performed to really get a good empirical understanding on the impact of the Paralympics and its coverage on the lives of disabled people.

I want to close this blog piece by thanking the team at The Conversation for asking me to blog my thoughts.