SEOUL, March 12 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korean TV networks are facing criticism over scarce media coverage of the PyeongChang Paralympics.
The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games kicked off last Friday under the theme of passion and coexistence, but the prospect of following up the success of the Winter Olympics remains doubtful, as many events featuring South Korean athletes have already been pushed to the side by broadcasters.
On Sunday, no live broadcasting of Paralympic games was scheduled by the three major South Korean TV networks with broadcasting rights, namely SBS, MBC, and KBS, despite South Korean athletes competing in a number of winter sports including sledge hockey, wheelchair curling, alpine skiing, and cross-country skiing.
MBC and SBS broadcast only highlights from the events held on Sunday in the early hours of Monday, at 12:55 and 1:35 in the morning, respectively, while KBS1 scheduled no other PyeongChang Paralympics related programming on the same day apart from the opening ceremony.
The lack of interest in the Paralympics among South Korean broadcasters appears more severe when compared to broadcasters in other countries.
While SBS and MBC have dedicated 32 hours and 18 hours, respectively, to Paralympics programming, American TV network NBC and Japanese public broadcaster NHK are expected to allot 94 hours and 62 hours to coverage of the events.
The poor TV coverage, despite the fact that the Games are being held in South Korea three decades after the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, have so far forced sports fans to flock to the official YouTube channel of the Paralympic Games where live streaming of events is available.
Against this backdrop, Nordic para skier Shin Eui-hyun, who brought South Korea its first medal of the Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang, called on the major TV networks to give the sporting event wider coverage.
“I received many calls since my story came to light. But still, I would like the public to show more interest in the Paralympics, as well as increased media coverage,” said Shin, a bronze medalist in Men’s 15km Classic Cross-Country Skiing while speaking to the press on Sunday.
Han Min-su, who leads the South Korean men’s sledge hockey team, also called for wider broadcasting coverage after a toughly contested 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic garnered little to no public interest.
“Though the game could have given courage to the public and disabled people, it hurts my heart to know that only the audience at the stadium was able to witness it,” said Han.
Despite the game being watched by high-profile figures including First Lady Kim Jung-sook in the audience, the dramatic win fell on deaf ears largely due to the lack of coverage by broadcasters.
“We have to power through with clenched jaws until we receive better public recognition. We believe our hard work will pay off someday,” Han added.
Plans to extend coverage are reportedly being discussed at MBC and SBS, according to a source close to the media. However, generally low ratings and poor advertising revenue prospects for the networks leave sports fans with little hope.
The indifferent treatment of the Paralympics draws a stark contrast with that of the Olympics, as major broadcasters in South Korea were seen airing the same events at the same time in a much contested ratings battle over the previous two weeks.
The same TV networks that were accused of ‘wasting radio waves’ by viewers for airing the same events simultaneously now face fresh charges of reducing the Paralympics to a ‘league of their own’ by providing little to no live coverage.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)