Tonight (Australian time) the 2013 FINA World Swimming Championships start in Barcelona and for the first time in living memory Australian viewers will not be able to watch the world’s best swimmers on Australian TV.
Swimming Australia’s website informs fans that “the event will not be broadcast into Australia, however FINA tv will stream online highlights daily.“
This is a sad reflection on the current state of Australian swimming. Once the golden sport for Australians on the international stage, controversy after controversy, poor performances in the pool and key sponsor withdrawals has seen this iconic sport in Australia fall down the pecking order to a point where the biggest international meet after the Olympics fails to find a broadcaster on Australian free-to-air or subscription television. This brings back memories of when the Ashes in 2005 were likely to be without a free-to-air broadcaster until SBS filled the void for what turned out to be an amazing series.
At the last FINA World Championships, FrostGlobal reported on Network Ten’s decision to broadcast the Championships from Beijing on up to a four hour delay on its digital channel ONE, despite it being in an ideal timezone for live coverage on a multichannel. It is evident this time that despite Network Ten being Swimming Australia’s domestic broadcast partner, it has decided not to purchase the (seperate) broadcast rights to the World Championships from FINA. This is despite Ten’s new CEO Hamish McLennan stating that event TV (such as sport) is crucial to the network’s turnaround.
Gone are the halcyon days where Channel Nine would broadcast the World Championships live, with Ray Warren, Nicole Livingstone and Duncan Armstrong on the ground from locations such as Fukuoka and Montreal. While it was a strange decision by ONE not to broadcast the 2011 World Championships live (except for the Men’s 100m final where James Magnussen won gold), at least each night’s competition could be watched in full (with Australian commentators). Even the IAAF Athletics World Championship from Moscow in a few weeks time will receive better treatment on Australian TV with SBS 2 broadcasting a nightly one-hour highlights package. This leads to the question why hasn’t the national broadcaster the ABC stepped in to broadcast the FINA World Championships or Fox Sports?
It appears that it is too late now for an Australian broadcaster to fill the void and broadcast the Swimming World Championship live. For those wanting to keep track online of the event heats commence at 6pm AEST and finals start at 2am AEST daily.
In an interview with the Courier Mail, James Magnussen commenting on the lack of TV coverage in Australia said,
“It’s definitely disappointing but I think it’s a result of recent events.”
Hopefully the Australian swim team can put in a stellar performance and generate new interest in the sport in the lead-up to the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, which will be broadcast on Network Ten.
For those still wanting to catch daily highlights of the FINA World Championships from Barcelona head to FINA TV.