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jeremy thorpe
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Comrades: does the SABC have a clue?

03 June 2013, 11:30

Did anyone bother to watch more than a few minutes of the Comrades Marathon on TV on Sunday?

I’m not a fanatical sports fan – but I do enjoy watching top-class cricket, rugby, soccer and athletics – plus uniquely South African events such as the Duzi canoe marathon and the Comrades.

Until yesterday that is, because the SABC’s Comrades coverage was truly dreadful and amateurish!

To start with, and I don’t know how the SABC managed this, but the actual pictures were of really poor quality….often murky and unfocused. Likewise, when the SABC actually deigned to show us a graphic, it was also blurry and difficult to read.

With most televised sports these days we’re never in doubt as to the state of play. Graphics and captions keep us constantly updated. Take the IPL for instance. We always knew who was batting, how many runs he had and his strike-rate. And loads of other stuff besides.  And the same applies to most other televised sports.

Not the Comrades Marathon though. We’d occasionally get a caption reading “Leading Man” but we often wouldn’t know who he was or where he was in relation to the field – and we hardly ever got captions showing the splits between the leading runners – or who was gaining or dropping back.

Similarly, most of the commentary, with the exception of Bruce Fordyce, was equally crap. Most of the commentators didn’t seem to have a clue about the runners the cameras were (un)focusing on – and also kept switching languages. If I’m watching cricket on Supersport, there’s usually a language option button so you can listen to commentary in the language of your choice. This simple option doesn’t appear to have occurred to the SABC.

I appreciate that as a “free to air” station, the SABC should have the right to broadcast certain sports – but I think that “right” should be balanced against professional ability. I’d also like to know why, oh why, the SABC still doesn’t have a dedicated sports channel? Until it does, we’re always going to have a situation where we have delayed broadcasts because the SABC needs to fit them in around news and soaps.    

I don’t claim to know what the answer is – and I don’t know how the fee structure works – but I think until the SABC regains the talent and ability to do a decent job of sports broadcasting, Supersport should do it all, and allow the SABC to piggyback on certain events of national interest like a Bafana Bafana match.  

Speaking of which, what happened to the SA-Lesotho soccer match broadcast? I couldn’t find it on any channel yesterday……

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