Back to TopBack to Top

What Governments Can Learn from #NBCfail


July 30, 2012

Doug Hadden, VP Products

The American television network, NBC, has exclusive broadcast rights to the 2012 London games. Broadcast coverage by NBC has generated the twitter hash tag of #NBCfail. The use of social media, including twitter has generated an undercurrent of satire and ridicule for:

Commentator Jeff Jarvis suggests:

The problem for NBC as for other media is that it is trying to preserve old business models in a new reality. To experiment with alternatives when billions are at stake is risky. But so is not experimenting and not learning when millions of your viewers can complain about you on Twitter.

From Broadcast to Always On

What’s changed from, say 1996? There was tape delays during the 1996 Atlanta games, in the United States, for events like the Men’s 100 Meter Dash [see below].

Broadcast electronic media enables control. Control of the message. Control of the advertising revenue. But, there is limited control in cyber space which is always on. Where people in stadiums and those watching in other countries can post results.

NBC executives seem to think that American citizens need the context presented. As if Americans are not bright enough to understand what is going on (or find out through a search on the Internet.) This is an patronizing attitude by elites is described in full by John Ralston Saul.

Lessons for Governments

  1. Public servants need to consider that they do not have all of the answers or the best answers. Governments can leverage citizen cognitive surplus.
  2. Citizens view delays of information as indicative of incompetence or hiding something so transparency can increase citizen trust.
  3. Governments cannot stop information flow to citizens, so it’s better to be proactive with open data rather than wait for access to information requests.
  4. Governments will be satirized and ridiculed – as they have been for centuries, just on cyberspace. Get used to it. Adjust.
  5. Transparency will reveal incompetence, corruption and inefficiencies. Embrace these to improve government effectiveness.

1996 100 Meter Dash

I watched the event on CBC. There was a lot of tension given the strong field. After watching the stress of false starts and the eventual win by Donovan Bailey, I flipped to the American channel (we can do that in Canada, although there doesn’t seem to be much reciprocity) to find that the network was setting up the event. Providing context. Here’s British commentary from the event. Wasn’t this enough tension? Isn’t it better than reality television?