Taiwan’s trove of Olympic medals has been celebrated by everyone, irrespective of politics, and loud cheers have echoed across social media and through neighborhoods, forming a melodic symphony. The nation has not felt such a sense of unity and excitement for a long time.
This pride in Taiwan’s athletes should help convey to the government that cultivating sports talent is not like campaigning for an election, which only require politicians’ attention every four years.
However, even as people cheered for the gold, silver and bronze medalists, they bemoaned that whichever party is in power, no president ever seems to attach much importance to sports. The only time everyone — no matter which party they belong to — is on the same page is when athletes win medals.
The television broadcasts from the Tokyo Olympics were a good example of this. The Public Television Service and Eastern Broadcasting Co had limited broadcasting rights and hours for the Games. Viewers who wanted to watch outstanding world-class events had to rely on Elta TV, a sports channel on Chunghwa Telecom’s multimedia-on-demand system. The cost of the broadcast fees is why access to the Games was so limited.
The fees for the broadcast rights to the Tokyo Olympics were estimated to exceed NT$400 million (US$14.4 million).
Although Chunghwa Telecom had the financial clout to broadcast the Games on its Elta TV channel, most TV stations chose not to broadcast them due to financial concerns. As a result, as Taiwanese athletes competed in the Games, some winning medals after years of hard work, the news anchors on mainstream channels could only report the events with some screenshots, which disappointed viewers.
While broadcasting sports events on TV is a commercial activity, politicians should make sports broadcasts available to everyone, if they truly care about sports.
Unfortunately, the issue, just like Taiwan’s presidential election, is only discussed every four years. Every four years, people seize the opportunity to criticize the government over the Games, but the politicians are soon forgiven and the matter disappears for another four years — always surfacing too late for anything to change.
The promotion of Taiwanese sports should not be a matter of paying lip service, and the government should not sit back and watch as athletes work hard in the sports arena all alone. Making sports broadcasting available to all could bring more fans and support — and it is certain to bring greater encouragement to the sports world.
The problem with TV broadcasting rights is just the tip of the iceberg, and nothing will change if the authorities do not give it some serious thought. Will Taiwanese continue to be haunted by this nightmare every four years?
A gold medal is a display of national strength. When Taiwan can win five, 10 or even more golds at the Olympics, it might be easier to change the name of Taiwan’s team from “Chinese Taipei” to something else.
Weber Lai is a professor in National Taiwan University of Arts’ department of radio and television. George is a senior worker in the telecommunications industry.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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