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Tokyo Paralympics to receive vastly less TV broadcast coverage than Olympics

The NHK Broadcasting Center in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Mainichi/Akihiro Ogomori)

TOKYO -- While Paralympic athletes and organization officials hope that TV broadcasts will help promote the appeal of each athlete's playing style as they are devised according to their different disabilities, broadcast coverage for the Tokyo Paralympics starting Aug. 24 is set to be tremendously limited compared to the Olympics.

    Japanese public broadcaster NHK has the rights to broadcast the Paralympics in Japan. According to NHK, the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), which produces the footage of the Games, will provide a total of about 1,000 hours of live coverage of 19 of the 22 Paralympic events, all of which will be streamed free of charge on NHK's special Paralympic website.

    The Paralympics is also scheduled to be broadcast for a total of 200 hours on NHK General TV and NHK Educational TV, and 180 hours on NHK BS1. Three events not covered by the OBS -- wheelchair fencing, para powerlifting and para taekwondo -- will be partially recorded and shown.

    Of the commercial broadcasters, Nippon Television Network Corp., TV Asahi Corp., Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc., Fuji Television Network Inc. and TV Tokyo Corp. -- all based in the capital -- will do live broadcasts for the first time and cover the highlights of the Paralympic Games. Broadcasts will be limited to some events like wheelchair basketball and para swimming, and shown for a total of 20 hours, but one affiliate of a commercial broadcaster said, "As it (the Paralympics) is held in our own country, in our mind is the significance of broadcasting para sports."

    But the amount of TV broadcasting of the Paralympics is overwhelmingly small compared to the Olympics. Live broadcasts and highlights of the latter were seen on TV day after day, which helped make the no-spectator Games more exciting. NHK provided 1,200 hours of TV broadcasts including Olympic-related programs, and commercial broadcasters spent over 400 hours on broadcasting the Olympic Games.

    The same commercial broadcaster affiliate said, "The same can be said about minor Olympic events, but considering the level of popularity of Paralympic events as sports, it's difficult to get sponsors. Even if people feel the Paralympics' significance, if it doesn't sell as a program, it's difficult to broadcast in the same way as the Olympics."

    A separate affiliate of a different Tokyo-based broadcaster told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Olympic ratings were higher than expected. If the ratings for the Paralympics are also unexpectedly high, there is a good possibility that commercial broadcasters will show more of the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing and the 2024 Paralympics in Paris."

    (Japanese original by Shota Harumashi, Tokyo City News Department)

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