So how does America's National Broadcast Company follow a weekend in which its broadcast policies were loudly and repeatedly criticized by every corner of the Internet? By silencing one of the loudest critics, naturally. Welcome to the story of NBC at the Olympics, Twitter, and a writer named Guy Adams.
As the Guardian reports from the U.K.:
Twitter has brought down a hail of critical tweeting on its own head by suspending the account of a British newspaper's Los Angeles correspondent following his acerbic reporting of NBC's coverage of the Olympics. The social media network hummed with the indignation of thousands of its users after the Twitter feed of Guy Adams of the Independent disappeared.
Adams published a tweet that included the email address of Gary Zenkel of NBC, encouraging his followers to contact Zenkel to complain about the TV network's delayed broadcast of the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.
Your account has been suspended for posting an individual's private information such as private email address, physical address, telephone number, or financial documents.
The offending tweet (via Deadspin):
The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven't started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think! Email: Gary.email@example.com
And ... okay.
On the one hand, man, what a stupid story.
On the other hand ... Let's not sugarcoat what's really a perfect microcosm of NBC's clumsy approach to these Olympics. It may have been Twitter that used a technicality to suspend Adams, but it was NBC that complained in the first place, creating this story from scratch.
This is sort of a dead horse by now, but as far as NBC's general broadcast strategy with these Olympics, think of it like this: In 1980, the "Miracle On Ice" game ran on tape delay, and it was fine because it was 1980 and not everyone had access to (or interest in) constant score updates. In 2012 we have the access and the demand, and NBC is just... pretending we don't? For instance, when Michael Phelps was racing Ryan Lochte on Saturday afternoon in London, TV audiences were watching Ryan Seacrest interview the women's gymnastics team, because the network wanted to save the race as an exclusive in prime time. I think the guiding broadcast philosophy here boils down to "Just Pretend The Internet Doesn't Exist".
The ratings have been solid regardless, but that isn't even the point.
It's 2012, the Olympics are supposedly this symbolic, unifying cultural event, and instead of trying to find a successful compromise between old realities of the broadcast business and new audience demands, America's broadcast leader is telling its viewers to live like it's 1980 again. From business perspective, maybe that makes sense. From a PR perspective, it's basically just NBC pissing on a bunch of smartphones and telling everyone who uses them for instant news to go back to the time of bunny ears antennas.
It's an okay strategy, I guess, but NBC has to live with the criticism. Instead, someone at the company got sensitive and lodged a complaint about a critic, not realizing that if the complaint were somehow successful, it's not like other Twitter users wouldn't notice. There would be 10 times the attention given to NBC's mediocre approach and how roundly the company's tuned out (completely fair) criticism. Now, here we are. What a stupid story, and what a stupid company.