Crikey reader Tom McCardell has been less than impressed with the TV coverage of the Beijing games:

What Glenn Dyer and various gloating Channel 7 execs fail to realise is that the ratings are so strong because of the enormous public interest in the Olympics and the lack of an alternative broadcaster to watch them on. It is nothing to do with the quality of their coverage. Most viewers are torn between stabbing knitting needles in their eyes, learning Latin or watching for another half an hour to see if any events will actually be shown. More infuriatingly there are never any times given for events, unlike SBS. The vague ‘coming up’ could mean in 10 minutes, 2 hours or tomorrow. If the main events of the Games were broadcast on Community Channel 42 by a cryogenically frozen deaf moose they would still rate into the millions in Australia. Channel 7 is taking the urine sample big time.

And he’s right …. but the issue goes beyond the clunkiness of timetabling or the naffness of overawed anchors. If ever there was an event that promised ratings on a platter it’s an Olympic Games, but this time round the Australian audience has been dudded by programming choices that doff too readily to the pressure of cheap jingoism.

The tendency to present Aussie-first coverage — even if the green and gold is running so far behind it’s an effort to keep the homegrown contender in shot — to the detriment of displaying the Olympic panoply is a great pity. The games are first and foremost about the contest, and second about the supremacy of extreme individual effort, never mind the country of origin. It sells the audience short to assume their only interest is in the Oi! Oi! Oi!