Stay true to the spirit of the Olympics

I applaud Mediacorp's decision not to accede to the exorbitant US$6 million (S$8 million) fee for live broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games ("Olympic dollar is the big winner"; Sunday).

To begin with, the business case for the live broadcast of Olympic events is extremely weak.

Despite indisputable brand recognition, the popularity of the Games themselves pales in comparison with other sports with comparable broadcast fees, such as European football.

Even within the Games, the various sporting events garner only a fraction of the viewership that the opening and closing ceremonies enjoy, and these shows are normally broadcast on free-to-air channels. 

Indeed, many Singaporeans remain unaware as to the precise start date of the Rio Olympics.

Much of the publicity surrounding the event thus far has been negative, focusing on the political and economic turmoil in Brazil, as well as the supposed dangers of the Zika virus.

Moreover, given the time difference between Rio de Janeiro and Singapore - 11 hours - a live broadcast of sporting events held in the afternoon there would take place in the middle of the night here.

We can thus conclude that the potential television audience for the Olympic Games is likely to be small, not nearly enough to justify the enormous cost of securing a live telecast.

We must also consider the numerous alternative channels available for interested viewers to enjoy live coverage of events, including Internet streams and up-to-date media reporting.

I also echo the editorial's sentiments that overinflated broadcast fees are a symptom of how the Olympics have become overcommercialised, to the extent that the event risks losing its original purpose as a celebration of sportsmanship.

If Mediacorp had acquiesced to the demand for a US$6 million sum, it would have merely perpetuated a toxic trend of raising broadcast fees every four years and holding broadcasters and viewers to ransom.

Taking a strong stand against exploitative charges by rejecting paying the fee is the first step towards undoing an unprincipled business model.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Stay true to the spirit of the Olympics'. Print Edition | Subscribe