Editorial: Giant Leaps8/13/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
As the Olympic torch passes to the next venue and Curiosity starts roving the surface of Mars, it is
time for a little back-patting for the communications
media that put all this action in our living rooms
and rec rooms—OK, and on our office TVs, which
we only monitor occasionally in the interests of
keeping abreast of the latest news.
NBC has been flamed for some of its torch coverage; some maybe deserved,
NBC could have blown out its entire schedule to carry all the marquee events
live during the day, but decided instead to tape-delay some of it, while still
providing, according to the network, a total 272.5 hours of broadcast network
coverage. That’s the most Olympics coverage ever on a network, which means,
generally, the most for NBC, since it has had the Games since some of the contestants
were only a golden gleam in their parents’ eyes.
According to NBCUniversal, combining all its coverage, across all its platforms—of which there were more than at a Chinese diving school—they totaled
291 hours a day of coverage, which works out to a dozen days’ worth of
Olympics for every day.
That total included 3D and does not even include the Ultra HD coverage that
was captured in a test for public and private viewings in Washington, Britain
and Japan during the Games—pictures 16 times as sharp as current HD.
It is easy to take for granted that we do TV in this country really well. CBS
executive Marty Franks, who was in London for the Games to watch his son
coach women’s field hockey, said the one thing he believed he was really going
to miss was the U.S. TV coverage. That indeed turned out to be the case, as
Franks informed B&C upon his return.
The unsung heroes, of course, are the techies and crews that had to get that
footage from there to here virtually 24/7 for 17 days. And by the way, a Pew
Research study found that 78% of Olympics watchers dubbed that coverage
either excellent or good.
Critics have the luxury of watching the race from the sidelines, then jumping
in afterward for some Monday-morning backstroking. But in our book, props are
due to everyone involved in the herculean technical and human effort of lifting
that enterprise and holding it up for the requisite time to earn a medal.
While we are talking about amazing feats, there was less fanfare than there
should have been last week for the touchdown of the Mars rover Curiosity, which
began almost immediately to send back pictures of the Red Planet’s surface.
Crystal clear pictures from space are another one of those giant leaps for
technology that have become so commonplace that we forget to stop, drop our
jaw and marvel at what we can accomplish. On NASA TV’s coverage, one of the
members of the NASA team advised viewers that they should all puff out their
chests and hold their heads a little higher because the accomplishment was
theirs, too. We agree.