Broadcasters facing hurdles shipping equipment for Olympic Games

U.S. and international TV networks that will broadcast the Beijing Olympics are complaining about stringent security that is hampering their shipment of TV equipment to China. This year’s games will be captured completely in HD for the first time, but it requires lots of new equipment to do so.

With the games set to begin in only two months, the networks are also arguing with organizers over other security issues, including limits on live coverage in Tiananmen Square. Freight shipments of TV broadcast equipment are apparently being held up in Chinese ports.

The issues were discussed in a contentious meeting two weeks ago between Beijing organizers and high-ranking International Olympic Committee officials and TV executives — including NBC, The Associated Press reported. In response to the complaints from broadcasters, Sun Weijia, head of media operations for the Beijing organizers, asked the networks to put their complaints in writing. This request drew more protests about mounting paperwork.

“I think what I have heard here are just a number of conditions or requirements that are just not workable,” said IOC official Gilbert Felli, according to minutes of the May 29 meeting obtained by the AP. “There are a number of things that are just not feasible.”

With time running out before the games open on Aug. 8, the minutes of the meeting hint that procedures broadcasters have used in other Olympics are conflicting with China’s authoritarian government. Some plans are months behind schedule, which could force broadcasters to compromise coverage plans.

The meeting in Beijing included representatives of nine broadcasters, each of which has paid for the rights to broadcast the Olympics. Top IOC officials and Beijing organizers were also on hand for what one TV executive termed an “emergency meeting.”

“We are two weeks away from putting equipment on a shipment, and we have no clearance to operate, or to enter the country or a frequency allocation,” Sandy MacIntyre, director of news for AP Television News, told the wire service. APTN is the television arm of the AP.

“The Chinese are very concerned about something going wrong — and so they are in Olympic gridlock,” John Barton, director of sport for the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, told the AP. “They are suffocating the television coverage in the crazy pursuit of security. They can’t secure the event. Nothing can be totally secure, yet they are trying to do that.”