Here's why you can cheer for our Paralympians but can't watch them live on TV
Earlier in the day, India’s Mariyappan Thangavelu created history by winning the gold medal at the men’s T42 High Jump event at the Rio Paralympics 2016 while fellow countrymen Varun Singh Bhati brought more laurels for the country by winning the Bronze Medal in the same event.
In what was an eventful night for India at Rio, another Indian contender; Sandeep Choudhury missed a medal at the F44 Javelin Throw event, with him finishing fourth.
However, to the misery of us Indians, most of us could not watch history being created live as there was no live broadcast of the Paralympics in India. Though, you can watch Mariyappan Thangavelu gold medal winning jump here:
This year, India has sent its largest ever Paralympics contingent of 19 athletes and as mentioned earlier, most of them stand a greater chance of winning medals than our able-bodied athletes. In fact, raising the bar of expectations, even PM Modi tweeted that India will cheer for its athletes.
The people of India will be enthusiastically cheering for our athletes representing India at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, starting 7th Sept.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 1, 2016
But much to the irony of the situation, no broadcasting house in India actually bid for the rights to the event. According to a report published on the official site, India is among 65 countries in the world where Paralympics will not be broadcasted on the TV.
At a time when, when TRP records shattered when PV Sindhu, Dipa Karmakar and Sakshi Malik played their medal winning matches, we have our para-athletes winning medals and yet not being telecasted live.
What does it reflect of? Before anything else, is it our apathy towards the para-athletes that resulted in the nonbidding of TV channels for the rights? How many of us actually did care to read up about the event before the news of Thangavelu winning the gold broke in or even after Varun Singh Bhati won the bronze? Not many of us, right?
In a competitive market, money needs to be recouped commercially. From what it seems, no broadcasting house had any faith in the Indian audience that they would get anything out of the telecast.
Star Sports, which had dedicated 8 channels for the Rio Olympics, did not pay any heed to bid while players like ESPN who had re-entered the Indian market also kept aloof. However, there are places elsewhere like Bermuda and Haiti where ESPN is telecasting the games. Clearly, things aren’t shaping up for Indian audience as expected.
But keeping this business politics aside, with the Prime Minister tweeting and the authorities acting supportive, one would have expected the Government to step in. This would have been an important investment in disability awareness.
The country should have at least made our public broadcasting company acquire the rights to broadcast. This would have probably been the greatest step in terms of inclusivity.