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NBC Criticized for Limited Airtime of Paralympic Games

NBC Faces Criticism for Limited Airtime of Paralympic Games
Kurt Fearnley of Australia leads the field in the Men's 5000m - T54 heats at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. NBC Sports obtained rights for five and a half hours of Paralympics coverage from the U.S. Olympics Committee. Photographer: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal, which broke ratings records with its extensive coverage of the London Olympics, is facing complaints from disability organizations for choosing not to air more of the Paralympic Games.

NBC Sports obtained rights for five and a half hours of Paralympics coverage from the U.S. Olympics Committee, consisting of four 60-minute highlight segments and a 90-minute wrap-up a week after the games conclude, the company said. Stations in Britain and Australia, meanwhile, are showing hundreds of hours of live coverage, according to the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper.

“NBC is making a mistake because they are missing an opportunity to build this into a whole new medium for entertainment,” Dick Traum, president and founder of Achilles International, a New York-based organization that supports athletes with disabilities, said in an interview. “They could also be doing great things for the disabled community by bringing more focus on it.”

NBC, controlled by Philadelphia-based Comcast, is “presenting all the coverage that our rights permit,” Chris McCloskey, a spokesman for the network, said in a statement. The programming time is an increase from the 90 minutes devoted to Beijing’s Paralympics in 2008.

Spotlighting Athletes

Like the regular Olympics, the games are held every four years. The event was started in 1948 in England to spotlight athletes with disabilities.

“In the U.S., we will have the most coverage ever for a Paralympic Games through both broadcast and online channels,” Charlie Huebner, the USOC’s chief of Paralympics, said in an e-mailed statement. ”We are proud of the expanded coverage we are offering with NBC in London, and the USOC is committed to expanding coverage of future Paralympic Games.”

The U.K. Disabled People’s Council called NBC’s lack of coverage “really, really appalling,” according to the Telegraph.

NBC’s broadcasts of the London Olympic Games reached 219.4 million viewers, making it the most watched U.S. television event ever. NBC aired more than 5,000 hours of Olympic events between its broadcast and cable stations this summer, the most coverage ever for the event.

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