Sveriges Television in Olympic broadcast controversy

Sveriges Television in Olympic broadcast controversy
The journalists' union is accusing Sveriges Television (SVT) of spreading "uncritial propoganda" after broadcasting a documentary on Wednesday about preparations for the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The public broadcaster is also facing criticism for demanding payment from schools and hospitals for Olympic broadcasts.

SVT broadcast the half-hour documentary, Open the gates to the East, on Wednesday evening to meet a commitment that the European Broadcasting Union EBU), to which SVT is a member, holds with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The agreement between the IOC and the EBU is for members to broadcast the film before the Olympics Games open next Friday, according to Svenska Dagbladet.

“It is an introduction film which shows the preparations for the Olympics and the IOC’s own work together with local organisers,” said Rolf Porsborn at SVT to news agency TT.

“Uncritical propaganda,” according to the Swedish union of journalists (Journalistförbundet).

The union accuses SVT of doing Beijing’s bidding and the film of being an uncritical advert for the IOC.

In the film the Beijing Olympics are described as “the green games” as the organisers have worked hard on their environmental profile.

Agneta Lindblom Hulthén, chairperson of the union of journalists thinks that it is surprising that the film was broadcast.

“It is such an obvious propaganda film. Pure marketing for China and the Olympic Games. We are not used to seeing this type of thing from public service, nor on any other channel for that matter. This had nothing to do with journalism,” she said to TT.

Rolf Porsborn, responsible for sporting rights agreements at SVT, responded by saying that the film was scrutinized in the same manner as for all the external material that they broadcast.

“We considered it appropriate in relation to everything else we broadcast. You can’t take each program on its own, you have to look at the whole picture,” he said.

There is nothing unusual about this type of film, Porsborn argued. SVT has broadcast something similar in the run up to every Olympic Games.

Mats Johansson of the Moderate party, who is a member of the parliament’s media group, has previously accused SVT of not being sufficiently critical towards concealed advertising.

“It is a question of the company’s editorial integrity. If the film is included in an agreement and has been produced by a public relations firm then it is definitely inappropriate,” he said to TT.

The documentary, “Open the gates to the East”, will be re-broadcast on Monday evening on SVT.

Sveriges Television has come in for further criticism after an announcement on Friday that it will require all county councils, including schools and hospitals, to pay 3,000 kronor ($500) in order to have the right to broadcast the Olympics.

Anders Knape, chairperson of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) dismissed the demand out of hand calling it “outrageous.” Knape has demanded that SVT withdraw its demand without hesitation.

On Friday night, SVT backed down from its demand following the criticism, agreeing to waive the fee for schools and hospitals.

However restaurants, pubs, and other commercial establishments who wish to broadcast the Games as a part of doing business will still be required to pay the licence fee.