On August 29th 2010 it is exactly two years to the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. To mark this milestone, Channel 4 will screen a weekend of dedicated programming, promoted with a marketing campaign which aims to challenge public attitudes towards disability sport.
A bit of history: Channel 4 bid for and won the rights to broadcast live coverage of the Paralympics in 2012. It probably was not much of a fight, because there was no live UK broadcast of the 2010 Paralympics at all.
So, what is Channel 4 doing to get prepared for the 2012 Paralympics? In the run-up to the Paralympics Channel 4 is developing various new TV programs focused on people with disabilities. For example, beginning the last weekend of August 2010, the first episode of "That Paralympic Show" will premiere. "That Paralympic Show" is a 10-week magazine programme dedicated to disability sport. It will be hosted by Rick Edwards and Paralympian Ade Adepitan. That Paralympic Show will feature segments such as "Pimp My Chair", featuring a small group of charismatic sporting 12 – 18 year olds who want to take their current wheelchair and turn it into something special. We were contacted by the producers of "That Paralympic Show" for some products to help them pimp wheelchairs and donated some wUnderGlow wheelchair lights and Wheels On Fire Wheelchair Reflectors. So, if you are watching "Pimp My Chair" look for wUnderGlow and Wheels on Fire on some cool pimped out wheelchairs.
On the same weekend, Channel 4 will broadcast "Inside Incredible Athletes". From the press release: "The programme will profile seven athletes, all of whom are hoping to represent ParalympicsGB in 2012, and will feature stunning sporting performance sequences, filmed against a backdrop of iconic locations around London showing Paralympic sport as it has never been seen before."
So, while the Paralympics are generally ignored by most broadcasters around the world, Channel 4 is demonstrating its commitment to the Paralympics two years early!
From the Channel 4 press release:
As the official UK broadcaster, Channel 4 will treat the Paralympic Games as the main event, not a sideshow to the Olympic Games. We will spend the next two years filming Paralympians as you have never seen them before.
In addition, check out all of the disability programming being offered by Channel 4. For example "Crippendales" an Award-winning documentary that follows the efforts of wheelchair user Lee Kemp as he attempts to realise his dream of creating Britain's first troupe of disabled male strippers. Ok, I am not sure I want to watch a program about male strippers, either disabled or able bodied. But since the typical television show featuring people with disabilities are usually the "inspirational" type showing a person with a disability struggling to go on with life post disability, Crippendales promises to be a breath of fresh air.
Considering that there are over 30 million people with disabilities in the USA and people with disabilities are the third largest minority group in the USA, why are the majar US broadcasters almost completely ignoring the disability community? Why is it so rare to even see an actor with a disability on mainstream US TV? Hopefully, broadcasters from around the world will be paying attention to what Channel 4 is doing.