All Friday afternoon long on Twitter, as the 2012 Olympics opening ceremonies played out in London, thousands upon thousands were giving NBC the business for not making a live stream of the event available on their website, and rightly so. This has led to folks scouring the Internet for pirate feeds of the opening ceremonies. (I would imagine Tom Brady was probably preoccupied that afternoon.)
Of course, the reason for NBC taking these restrictive measures is to ensure that the maximum number of interested viewers will tune in on Friday night, when the cermonies will be presented on a four-hour tape delay.
And if you think such tactics are harsh here in the States, listen to what’s happening at the site of this year’s Olympics – wait a minute, you won’t be able to if you’re in the States.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has rights to the Olympics in England. And as part of their agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the BBC has discontinued access to streams of their Radio 4 and Radio 5 channels to listeners outside the UK.
Which means that even if you’re interested in hearing how the Olympics – a very visual event – emanating from London sounds on the famed BBC, unless you hop on a Virgin flight to Heathrow, you won’t have that opportunity.
“Due to rights restrictions, this part of the program is unavailable,” is a pre-recorded message that online listeners outside England are greeted with when they try to access the stream for Radio 4.
In addition, podcasts for programs on Radio 4 with Olympics content are either suspended, or heavily edited to remove references to the Olympics. Radio 4’s “Today,” which the BBC dubs the channel’s “flagship news and current affairs programme,” actually will fall into both categories. Over the course of the next two weeks, according to The Guardian, the BBC will be gutting Olympics-related material from podcasts of “Today,” but as was the case on Friday, a message was displayed on the show’s podcast page reading, “We are not allowed to broadcast anything online outside the UK from the Olympic Park or Olympic venues.”
And BBC’s overseas Olympics edict may not just be in effect for Radios 4 and 5. You may experience difficulty (or at least I have) trying to play an Olympics-themed podcast of “The Chris Evans Breakfast Show” from Radio 2.
“On the one hand, it is a great shame,” said an unidentified BBC employee. “On the other, people listening from abroad don’t pay the licence fee.”
For the uninitiated, all English residents must pay an annual licence fee in order to view any programming on television, or hear a single station on the radio.
I bet the British government is probably shaking their fists at all of us Americans viewing all of those lovely photos from the opening ceremonies on Friday afternoon without paying a licence fee.
And I bet NBC is ticked off that many Americans were merely tweeting about the opening ceremonies hours before they were scheduled to be shown on their air.
And so, my fellow Americans, if you think the situation involving Olympics media here is confusing, look on the bright side.
Don’t try to listen online, though.