Behind the Headlines

The AP today has another story on the tug-of-war going on behind the scenes between the government and broadcasters as the countdown to August 8 draws closer.  Promises of free and unfettered access for foreign media given at the time of the bid are being rescinded, either directly or by red tape and the issuing of ‘new regulations.’

The Beijing Olympics may not look much different from previous games on TV. Behind
the studio sets, however, world broadcasters have been squaring off for
months with Chinese officials over censorship. Among the issues: what
they’ll be allowed to get on video, where they can work and whether
they can broadcast live. They’ve faced red tape, intimidation and
restrictions on coverage, which might make it difficult to cover
unexpected events away from the venues……Despite gleaming venues and 70,000 smiling volunteers, the image of
Beijing Olympics may become that of police waving their hands in front
of cameras, hoping to block photos. This happened several weeks ago
when a reporter for German TV ZDF — a rights holder — had a live
interview stopped on the Great Wall of China. Police walked in front of
the camera and showed their open palms to the lens.Correspondent
Johannes Hano said he had the correct permits, and permission from
countless authorities. He was told to stop his interview because the
on-camera expert on the Great Wall was an American who was not licensed
to speak about the iconic monument. “They can always seem to find a reason,” Hano said.

Since the beginning of this Olympic journey for China, I have always thought that this would be one of the more interesting things to watch on the sidelines — how the authorities would handle thousands of foreign reporters running around reporting on whatever they want.  Despite having promised just that, there’s no way in the end then can do it.  And that, in and of itself, I predict, will become one of the big stories to emerge in the next month.