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BBC interview with father of Chad le Clos and why it is a loss for the free Internet

Date posted: August 1, 2012

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by Herman Manson (@marklives)  In a stunning victory South African swimmer Chad le Clos took gold in the 200m butterfly at London 2012. Le Clos’s father, Bert, was being interviewed by the BBC shortly after Le Clos received his medal. His father, emotional and excited at once, gave an interview pundits in the States have referred to as the “media moment of the games so far.”

South Africans accessing the BBC website wanting to watch the interview with the father of their newly minted national hero will receive nothing but the le clos farther bbc interviewfollowing message “Cannot play media. Sorry, this media is not available in your territory.”

For the International Olympics Committee the free Internet is not a place to cross borders or a showcase of international co-operation. It is a stumbling block in coining it (more than usual).

The BBC is not allowed, The Guardian reports, to broadcasting “anything online outside the UK from the Olympic Park or other Olympic venues.” That includes radio shows broadcast from these venues. Radio news content broadcast by the BBC from these venues wereblacked out to its global audience and was only reinstated after a late agreement was reached with the IOC.

The late deal doesn’t help South Africans wanting to see the TV interview with le Clos’s farther. It raises a number of questions that goes to the heart of what it means to be a media player in the digital era.

In a media environment which doesn’t abide by borders, unless you are stuck on the wrong side of one in places like China, Iran and North Korea, can you justify excluding huge sections of your audience, and how will they react if you do so? To what extent will you undo goodwill to your media brand if you block news content on the free Internet? And what is the point if you know your content will keep popping up on other sites (like here) who will gain from your content simply because you would not host it on your own website?

The rights agreements the IOC forces on broadcasters haven’t evolved with the emergence of the Internet except to become ever more restrictive – in line with the overall culture of the IOC which seems to become less and less democratic or transparent with every passing year.

The BBC is not a UK media brand. It’s a global news brand. Or so I thought. The IOC restrictions imposed on the digital environment once again shows a radical shift away from the founding principles of the global internet to one increasingly controlled by corporations and governments, including many democratic ones, uncomfortable with the free access to information it grants to a broad mass of society.

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