BEIJING –might bar live television broadcasts from Tiananmen Square during the , apparently unnerved by the recent outburst of unrest among Tibetans and fearful of protests in the heart of the Chinese capital.
A ban on live broadcasts would wreck the plans ofand other major international networks, who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to broadcast the Aug. 8-24 games and are counting on eye-pleasing live shots from the iconic square.
The rethinking of‘s earlier promise to broadcasters comes as the government has poured troops into Tibetan areas wracked by anti-government protests this month and stepped up security in cities, airports and entertainment venues far from the unrest.
In another sign of the government’s unease, 400 American Boy Scouts who had been promised they could onto the field following a March 15 exhibition game between theand were prevented from doing so by police.
“It was never specifically mentioned to me it was because of Tibet that there were extra controls, but there were all these changes at the last minute,” said a person involved in thewho asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The communist government’s resorting to heavy-handed measures runs the risk of undermining Beijing’s pledge to thethat the games would promote greater openness in what a generation ago was still an isolated China. If still in place by the games, they could alienate the half-million foreigners expected at the games.
Like the, live broadcasts from Tiananmen Square were meant to showcase a friendly, confident China — one that had put behind it the deadly 1989 military assault on democracy demonstrators in the vast plaza that remains a defining image for many foreigners.
“Tiananmen is the face of China, the face of Beijing so many broadcasters would like to do live or recorded coverage of the square,” said Yosuke Fujiwara, the head of broadcast relations for the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting Co., or BOB, a joint-venture between Beijing Olympic organizers and an IOC subsidiary. BOB coordinates and provides technical services for the TV networks with rights to broadcast the Olympics, such as.
Earlier this week, however, officials with theOrganizing Committee, or BOCOG, told executives at BOB that the live shots were canceled, according to three people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
“We learned that standup positions would be canceled,” one of these people said. “No explanation was given for the change.”