Sports broadcasting: A fuzzy picture

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By Michael Y.P. Ang

Under Vision 2030, the Government’s blueprint for sports development, a major target is to raise sports spectatorship and viewership to drive corporate sponsorship.

The SEA Games offer the perfect platform to promote Singapore’s athletes to a nationwide TV audience and whet Singaporeans’ appetite for supporting Team Singapore at sports arenas.

The Government has called on the private sector to support sports development. However, its own sports agency, the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), seems unwilling to make the first move in showing potential sponsors that a major sport like basketball is worth supporting.

Basketball is unique in Singapore because it is the only sport with a professional team (Singapore Slingers), which is essentially the national team enhanced by a few foreign players, participating in an international league competition (ASEAN Basketball League).

(The LionsXII is an age-group team, strengthened by a few national players, competing in the domestic league of another country.)

Of the eight Singaporeans employed by the Slingers, seven are in the 12-man SEA Games squad. The Slingers coach is also Singapore’s national coach.

On Monday, MediaCorp responded to a viewer’s complaint about inadequate SEA Games coverage, published in both The Straits Times andTODAY.

MediaCorp says “Pending live feed from the host nation, we will also telecast the events where Team Singapore reaches the semi-finals and finals.”

Following MediaCorp’s response, the viewer (Robin Chee) posted a comment on todayonline.com using his Facebook account: “Ok. Can safely give up on this nation now. If you are a real sports fan.”

Are MediaCorp’s programming executives aware that there are no semi-finals or finals in men’s and women’s basketball, which run on a round-robin basis? The team that wins the most games takes the gold, and so on.

The Singapore men’s team won a medal for the first time in 34 years, clinching the bronze partly because it beat Malaysia. The 71-67 victory was Singapore’s first over its Causeway neighbours since 1979!

While Singapore’s cagers had done the nation proud, the same can hardly be said of our national broadcaster or national sports-promotion body.

Even if Singapore had not won a medal, it would still have been a fabulous opportunity to promote basketball spectatorship which, very disappointingly, had gone to waste.

MediaCorp had taken its eyes off the ball. The question now is: did the SSC also drop the ball on this?

If SSC’s Strategic Development & Marketing Group, which works on sports broadcast development and the marketing of Team Singapore athletes, did not advise MediaCorp on this opportunity prior to the Games, why not?

Is broadcasting Singapore’s six basketball matches live once every two years (the SEA Games is held biennially) really too much for MediaCorp to handle?

The Straits Times’ misleading report

On a slightly brighter note, many Singaporeans have been enjoying a free sports channel, launched on Oct 10, that offers more programming on Singapore sport.

The free channel is part of a three-year collaboration between the SSC and StarHub. Both parties issued a media release on Oct 8 that specifically says the new channel reaches almost all Singapore households.

The free channel is blacked out from households that are not wired to receive StarHub’s cable signal.

Why is the SSC using taxpayers’ money on a venture from which thousands of Singaporeans, if not more, are excluded?

Perhaps more disturbing is The Straits Times’ Oct 9 report that the free channel is “available to all Singapore households on 76.25MHz”. The same misleading report is still available on asiaone.com.