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TV Sports: Corruptive Force In Broadcast News
Posted By Robert Butche On December 12, 2008 @ 12:01 am In Media Business | Comments Disabled
It was inevitable. When ABC was sold to Capital Cities, and then to Disney, the handwriting was on the wall. A lot of people worked to make ABC what it was, and they deserve more than to have their legacy callously tossed aside.
ABC Sports Presenter
Those who love athletics likely share Keith Jackson’s dismay at what has happened in the marriage between his profession and avocation. But there is far more to this story than how television has corrupted athletics — because the blending of sports and news divisions at two major networks forever blurred the lines between entertainment and journalism. NYT: Keith Jackson Retires 
Sports broadcasting has evolved into a caricature of its former greatness. In Keith Jackson’s era television covered athletic games as they unfolded. What viewers saw were legitimate sporting events played at their customary time. Play proceeded at a pace determined by rules of sport, not economics.
The viewer felt part of the event, wrapped in the ambiance of the venue and the energy of fans. Watching such as game meant seeing it unfold play by play without high energy chatter, sound effects, underscores or bumper music.
If you ever saw a televised sporting event you likely understand why Keith Jackson devoted his life to athletics. The spectacle was in the stadium, on the field. When the normal energy of the game produced lulls, time outs, or end of innings, television recouped its coverage costs and profits with commercials.
Today’s televised sports are big money television shows in which the athletic performance is often masked by excessive intrusions, kerfuffle and seemingly endless rivers of testosterone. Big money means heavy handed commercialism that overwhelms the athletic content with anything deemed to be more profitable. The normal rhythm of the game is replaced by cluster spacing. There is no lull between innings for that time is filled with two frantic clusters wrapped around teases and a promo.
The spectacle of half time bands are gone so that additional testosterone and revenue can be interjected in their place. Some so-called sporting events have an hour or more of lead-in programming so that viewer attention can be stretched to include talking heads engaging in highly animated gesticulation and strident, aggressive empty chatter. Even worse, with presenters of Keith Jackson’s caliber now gone. In the place of skilled play-by-play commentary today’s viewers are bathed in a non-stop talkathon, endless analysis of insignificant happenings. Even occasional shouting matches whose sole purpose is to keep inebriated viewers from flipping channels.
Far from the world beloved by Keith Jackson, and millions of fans who might be interested in the game itself, television sports programming rips out the heart of the action so that it can be neatly wrapped in commercials. The look and feel of the underlying game is left out leaving only the facade of once treasured athletic events all but overwhelmed by all the kerfuffle, noise and gesticulation.
With so little coverage of the subtleties of televised sports, what was once as easy job for a single presenter, such as Keith Jackson, Mel Allen, or Curt Gowdy involves a half-dozen or more speaking parts. In their zeal to over-produce a television program there’s even something indelicately described as the sideline-bitch, a slimy term for a good-looking, loud-talking young woman who appears not to be permitted in the broadcast booth.
Viewers are expected to ignore the rampant sexism while she is made to offer up mindless chatter about sore arms, taped knees, or inane questions for rattled coaches at halftime. No matter the intellect, skill or presence these women bring to their jobs, in televised sports, their only purpose is to make the event seem less male dominated.
Television sports has become embarrassingly distorted by the mindless attention given who wins, big plays, interesting happenings ( fights and rough play ), and the opinions of over-paid presenters who seem driven to get in the way of the game. Athletics is so corrupted today that game play is routinely stopped to permit commercials, no matter its impact on the pace and rhythm of the game. Fans in the stadiums are even heard to boo when play is stopped to accommodate a double-cluster wrapped around a local break and network tease. Fans watching an ESPN produced broadcast are inundated with short cuts to other events, people in other cities not watching the game, and endless highlights of other games, with every cutaway or tie-in neatly packaged for advertising revenue. When someone said watching an ESPN game was like watching football wearing a condom, we immediately understood what they meant.
Televised sports has done more than ruin athletics, for its values of excess and kerfuffle have infected the network news divisions — even those who do not mix sports and news into a single entity. What’s ironic about the impact sports values have had on television news lies in part on how differently they are funded. Athletics, produced as television programs, are immensely profitable to broadcast. News, which is largely produced for the same purposes, is far less profitable. When news and sports are merged, both benefit from a shared overhead cost. There was a time when this arrangement benefited both news and sports programming, but that era ended when Roone Arledge left the business.
Since then, news content programming, at all four major networks, has been contaminated by two highly contagious and increasingly fatal directives.
Televised events are to be managed solely for their revenue producing value. Event Presenters are television stars — valuable and promotable assets that extend commercial valueThe era of network television is dying. Not because it has no value, but because it has been milked dry. The problem is a failed business model — one that is so habitual and deeply ingrained that neither affiliates nor networks appear incapable of exploring the new opportunities in over the air broadcasting.
Mismanagement, cash cowing and mindless focus on immediate gratification have damaged us as a nation. So have they turned amateur athletics, love of the game and youthful sportsmanship into a disgraceful display of excess and greed.
When it’s all about money, nothing else matters. Then you’re dead.
Article printed from Newsroom Magazine USA Edition: http://newsroom-global.com
URL to article: http://newsroom-global.com/2008/business-finance/media-business/tv-sports-corruptive-force-in-broadcast-news/
URLs in this post:
 NYT: Keith Jackson Retires: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/27/sports/ncaafootball/27jackson.html