2024 Olympics

NBC begins its healthy coverage from Paris and through the French landscape


France Is A Democratic Country.

So NBCUniversal Should Not Be Afraid To Discuss The Controversies Surrounding The 2024 Paris Olympic Games. But Will It?
Self-Censorship Of Controversies By Sports Commentators Is Standard

Arthur Solomon

Any followers of the controversies before and during an Olympics televised by NBCUniversal’s (NBCU) Olympic team knows that the commentators act more as a PR arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) than as a news organization and muffles the controversies that have been associated with the games.

Human rights violations and other controversies in past Olympics were often not mentioned by NBC’s on-site reporters and the TODAY show team, even though the controversies were reported in depth by other TV stations and daily newspapers.

NBCU has broadcast every Winter Olympics since 2002 and every Summer Olympics since 1988. It has the rights to the Olympic coverage through 2032

During that time period, telecasts emanated from totalitarian countries devoid of free expression and human rights.

The 2014 Winter Olympics were held in Sochi. Russia and China was awarded the summer games in 2008 and the winter games in 2022. (NBC also won the rights to televise the 1980 Summer Olympics from Moscow, but after the U.S. boycotted the games because of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, the coverage was greatly reduced.)

Recently, NBCU has been accelerating its promotion of the Paris Olympics with TV commercials on various platforms and on the TODAY show. Largely missing from the “happy talk” on TODAY is the hard news coverage of the controversies that have engulfed the Paris Olympics. Thus far they have largely been ignored.

Controversies include allegations of bribery in awarding contracts, the payment of track and field athletes, threats of labor strikes and the boycott of countries that oppose the IOC’s decision to permit athletes from Russia and Belarus compete.

It’s only fair to admit that because we are now in the midst of the baseball season and the basketball and hockey playoffs, thus far, there hasn’t been much coverage of these Olympic controversies in American media, even though the Associated Press and Reuters has constantly reported on them.

However, there is a distinct difference between NBCU’s silence of those controversies and most of the U.S. media.

History demonstrates that eventually the non-NBCU media will cover these controversies as the games draw closer and report on any that occur during the games. NBCU’s history is that they will provide little to no coverage of controversies, in affect making their talent act as PR people for the IOC. It’s obvious that the powers at NBCU have decided not to act as a reliable news source during its Olympics coverage. It is not unreasonable for anyone to conclude that its commentators are told to practice self-censorship.

Viewers can expect the self-censorship of negative Olympic coverage by NBCU to continue for the foreseeable future because of the billions of dollars the network has invested in Olympic coverage.

NBCU is a major partner with the IOC. In 2021, Market Realist.com reported that if the cost of televising the games was broken down individually, the network “paid $12 billion for the broadcast rights of each edition of the Olympic Games from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, to the 2032 Summer Games in Brisbane, Australia,” for the rights to televise the games in the U.S. (In 2014, NBCUniversal paid a record $7.65 billion to extend its U.S. broadcast rights for six Olympics through 2032. NBCU already had the rights through the 2020 Olympics in a four games deal signed in 2011 for a then-record $4.38 billion.)

A cynic might be correct to say “that when money is involved, NBCU’s definition of an unfettered press is censorship.”

But it’s not just NBCU’s Olympic reporters that practice self-censorship (or maybe management imposed censorship). Followers of the sport scene know that self-censorship is as common by sports announcers as are the comings and goings of the sun and the moon.

At one time, print reporters also would not write unfavorable articles about team owners and the players they covered. But that has changed. Unlike sports announcers, print reporters no longer camouflage the dirty aspects of players and sports moguls. This is not true of sports broadcasters, especially those play-by-play announcers and their analysts.

The most common example of broadcasters not telling the entire story of a player is during the retirement of his uniform or when a player is enshrined into a hall of fame, especially those of individual clubs.

Those players are routinely described as the “finest of gentlemen I’ve ever known,” even when their résumés include illegal and unsportsmanlike conduct that would have nonathletes fired.

Of all the sports, Major League Baseball plays the nostalgia card the most. It means more cover-ups by announcers or unsportsmanlike conduct by players and team owners have been the norm more than in any other sport.

And as media watchers know, it was a “must” during the early days of televised football games to show the owners of teams and describe them as “upstanding, fine gentlemen,” even though they remained silent when their underlings attempted to discredit and destroy the reputations of medical scientists who proved the nexus between concussions and brain damage. 

NBCU defines itself as the owner of “leading entertainment and news brands, including NBC, NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Sports, Telemundo, NBC Local Stations, Bravo, USA Network, and Peacock, our premium ad-supported streaming service.” And that’s the problem for anyone who only keeps up with sports news from watching television on NBCU or any other network. It’s obvious to media watchers that the main ingredient on a sports telecast is “entertainment,” and that means negative news is suppressed.

In July, NBCU will televise the Olympic games from France, a democratic country. On site Olympic reporters do not have to be fearful of being arrested or expelled if they say anything that upsets the government. So will NBCU act as a news organization and report on the many controversies that the Associated Press and Reuters have reported on for many months? My guess is that everything will be presented as ice cream and cake and controversies, if reported on, will be as frequent as an ice storm at the Equator, which scientists says hasn’t occurred for 716 million years, give or take a century or so.

A few decades ago, the sports department of print pubs was referred to as the Toy Department. That epithet now fits the sports broadcaster’s announcer’s booth!


Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications and consults on public relations projects. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com.

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