Britain’s Paralympians have welcomed the news that Channel 4 has secured the UK television broadcast rights to both the Rio 2016 Paralympics and the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Channel 4 will broadcast 500 hours of coverage from Rio, and more than 45 hours from next year’s winter games in Sochi, Russia. Three years ago, the BBC was heavily criticised for showing no live coverage at all of the Vancouver Winter Paralympics, and no daily highlights, across its TV channels.
A Channel 4 spokesman said it was too early to say what proportion of the Sochi coverage would be live, and how much would be daily highlights packages.
Gordon Neale, former chief executive of Disability Sports Events, who was highly critical of the BBC’s lack of coverage of the Vancouver games in 2010, said the Channel 4 announcement was “heartening”. He said: “I think Channel 4 have done a brilliant job and I am sure they will again.” He also praised the broadcaster’s programme of developing new disabled reporters and presenters.
The broadcaster has pledged to continue the programme of talent development that led to the training of 10 disabled reporters and presenters for London 2012, committing another £250,000 to add to the £500,000 it has already invested, with one of the 10 set to become a new Paralympic correspondent for Channel 4 News.
Some of Britain’s top Paralympians from London 2012 have also welcomed the decision to award the broadcasting rights to Channel 4.
Powerlifter Ali Jawad told Disability News Service: “Channel 4 did an incredible job putting the Paralympics on the map. It should be an example for future broadcasters, and I’m very pleased they have… secured the rights to Rio 2016.”
Channel 4 won substantial praise for its coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics, reaching more than two-thirds of the UK population.
It has pledged “round-the-clock” coverage of Rio 2016, including 200 hours on its main TV channels, including live coverage, highlights, and the much-praised, Paralympic-themed chat show The Last Leg, presented by the disabled Australian comedian Adam Hills.
Another 300 hours of coverage through its digital platforms – such as its channels on Sky, Virgin Media and Freeview – will take the total coverage to about 500 hours, similar to last year’s total.
The Channel 4 spokesman said they could not yet say how many of the 200 hours on its main TV channels would be live coverage, although he said it would be a “significant proportion”.
The broadcaster will also screen live coverage of major international para-sporting events in the lead-up to Rio, including this year’s athletics world championships from France and August’s swimming world championships from Canada. And it is to produce a “major” Paralympic-themed documentary, which could potentially be released in cinemas. It will also be working with broadcasters in Brazil to pass on the lessons it learned from London 2012.
Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of Rio 2016, said the partnership with Channel 4 would “showcase Rio 2016 and Brazil to a wide audience that is now more informed about and eager for Paralympic sport” and “help us achieve our goal of contributing to the growth of the Paralympic Movement, both nationally and globally”.
Sir Philip Craven, president of the IPC, said: “We are delighted to extend our partnership with Channel 4 following its stunning success in covering the London 2012 Paralympic Games. “With London 2012, Channel 4 created a blueprint for how a commercial broadcaster can raise the profile of Paralympic sport and its athletes to new levels.”