Who’s the Closed Country Now: NBC Withholds Olympics Until It’s Damn Well Ready

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

mojo-photo-olympicslogo.jpgFirst revelation: it turns out the whole world doesn’t arrange stuff according to America’s prime time TV schedule! Who knew? The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing kicked off at 8 a.m. Eastern Time, and one would imagine that NBC, understanding the demand for immediacy in the decentralized internet age, would broadcast it live, right? Nope. At the time of the ceremony, NBC was broadcasting a cooking segment on the Today show. For the billions of dollars they paid for the rights, they’re going to get their money’s worth, and that means the opening ceremony will be delayed 12 hours so American audiences can watch it after dinner, with what I can only assume will be a whole lot of commercials.

After the jump: your desire for immediate access to information makes you a criminal!

This situation made for some ingenious scrambling amongst those who wished to watch events as they were actually happening: lucky residents near the Canadian border took time off from making prescription drug runs to enjoy spillover broadcasts from the CBC, who covered the ceremony live. Even the New York Times was forced to improvise:

Silicon Valley Insider put a lot of work into finding ways to watch online and led us to an excellent German-language feed that downloaded slowly on some computers but delivered large and clear images. We were also entertained by what seemed to be a live video stream of the Eurosport feed, with Russian commentary, and some sort of amateur moblogging via Qik.

They found and posted links to some footage on YouTube, which were immediately taken down; the Times then commented, with some restraint, that “there’s an interesting tug of war going on today between the openness of the Internet and the restrictions imposed by television broadcasters who paid a lot of money for the rights to this event.” Yes, fascinating. I don’t mean to make a naïve comparison of corporate profit-maximizing to Communist populace-subduing nor bring up some sort of convergence theory but is there just a little irony here? Anyway, everybody said the ceremony was great, so if you want to whole lot of people dancing in unison for like four hours, you can see it starting at 8:00 tonight.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend