NBC accused of deliberately editing footage of the women’s team gymnastics

 

Controversy over the coverage of the Olympics on American television deepened today when NBC was accused of deliberately editing footage of the women’s team gymnastics in order to create what critics called “fake suspense.”

Russian world champion Ksenia Afanasyeva’s unexpected fall during the floor exercises, which effectively handed a gold medal to Team USA during an early stage of the contest, was inexplicably removed from the time-delayed version of events that NBC presented to its prime-time television viewers.

The broadcaster instead cut to footage of its home team’s floor rotation. Although the event was essentially over as a meaningful contest, commentator Al Trautwig attempted to stoke viewer enthusiasm by wondering if the US: “can deliver a knockout blow.”

NBC’s stunt might have passed un-noticed were it not picked up by the sports blog Deadspin and the entertainment blog Deadline, who both railed against what they suggested was a cynical effort to mislead viewers into thinking they were watching a dramatic denouement.

Deadspin noted that the broadcaster also “cleverly avoided showing the standings,” which would have shown that the US was well clear of its nearest opponent. Deadline meanwhile declared: “This is a manipulative and insulting way to cover any sporting event.”

The allegation that it has attempted to deceive audiences comes amid widespread criticism of NBC for preventing network TV viewers watching key Olympic events live. They are forced instead to tune into commercial-laden highlights packages aired during evening prime-time, when advertising revenue is highest.

That policy is frustrating for viewers, who thanks to internet, radio, and sometimes NBC’s own news broadcasts are learning the result of events long before they are able to actually watch them. But it’s nonetheless lucrative: on Wednesday, the network, which was previously expecting to lose around $200m on the Games, told investors that soaring prime-time ratings mean it should now break even.

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