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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Want a burger with your silver medal? Don't hold back!

Leaving aside whether Channel Nine omitted the final stages of the Olympic 470 class race in the UK (you can't expect TV schedulers to understand a sport as difficult to appreciate as sailing, and one which is not naturally telegenic, such as a 100-metre sprint), the bigger question about the TV station's performance this Olympics must centre on its saturation advertising during broadcasts.

Want a burger with that car, folks? If so, Channel Nine is the station to rely on because it has pulled McDonalds ads back-to-back with ads for Jeep. Not only that, but the station has filled in the remaining milliseconds with a series of cheesy infomercials that doggedly round off with the Jeep 'Don't Hold Back' tagline just so you don't miss another opportunity to have your purchasing preferences influenced by a wealthy sponsor. Heaven forbid.

If you don't rush out and buy a burger, you're positively un-Australian.

Aside from the frustration this produces, Channel Nine has turned up the bogan metre to the max during commentary breaks in its broadcasts. You might be watching My Kitchen Rules for all the verbiage by the men and women on the front desk resembles the kind of informed commentary that viewers should reasonably expect to see alongside coverage of actual races in some of the world's top sporting events. Station executives have made sure that their coverage matches up with the expectations of the lowest common denominator among their preferred viewership. The look and feel of their coverage resembles nothing more than Channel Nine's nightly news broadcast, and noone would blame that show for being upmarket. All in all it's a downer.

Mixing commercials with live sports coverage is risky enough. You'd think that Channel Nine would try to relieve the tension produced by this unholy alliance by lifting the tone of the broadcast generally. But that's not good business, it seems. The ultimate aim here is to maximise the number of opportunities the station has to expose viewers to the kind of business-driven product placement that ordinarily destroys the appeal of more routine broadcasts on TV. This Olympics coverage is all of a piece with the commercial imperatives that the station uses to compete in regular time slots. And it's practically unwatchable.

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