The ABC is may lose the metropolitan radio rights for the Beijing Olympics. The winning bidder is believed to be Fairfax Radio with 2UE and 3AW the lead stations. The ABC, the traditional metroplitan radio host, will retain the broadcast rights for regional and rural Australia.

It will be interesting to see if Fairfax Radio can handle the coverage as it doesn’t have any of the ABC’s planning and broadcasting experience with the Olympics, despite having a minor presence at Athens 2004. AW and UE may have to raid the ABC for staff with major event expertise and the sort of specialist sporting knowledge called for in Olympic coverage. Apart from rugby league, cricket, soccer and AFL, there’s precious little sporting expertise at Fairfax Radio these days.

Ray Warren might get a call from Fairfax, but he will be covering the NRL for Nine, or they could try the ABC’s Gerry Collins who is the equal of Warren in calling swimming.

Will Fairfax try to link its audio broadcasts to the Fairfax newspaper websites? It’s the sort of cross platform stuff CEO David Kirk has talked about.

If Fairfax beats the ABC, it will be the second time the national broadcaster has been gazumped on a major sporting rights deal. Last year the AFL stuffed the ABC when it lifted broadcast rights to a commercial level which the ABC could not afford. The ABC recovered in subsequent negotiations and still covers AFL but it gets inferior games which are not covered by main the rights holders.

Peter Fray

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