I have spent my entire adult life in the Sports, Broadcast or Entertainment Industries. I have held just about every position a man can hold.
I have been not only a producer and promoter, but also an Executive and an announcer as well. It is to this point I am writing today.
When I started in this business, the FCC had hard and fast rules. They covered moral interpretation, as well as the delivery of news, public affairs and sports. Understand I have been a member of the Television Academy since 1955 when it existed only in New York. At the same time, I was a charter member of the Broadcast Promotion Association.
My involvement preceded the advent of coaxial cable bringing about transcontinental broadcasting. It was the era of Black and White Television, which used 16-millimeter film and 2-inch tape. In other words, I believe I have an insight into the growth of television, the many changes inherent and the easing of the rules determining on-air conduct.
As a matter of fact, when I first started in TV, the FCC license granted to a TV station was sacrosanct. This franchise had to be protected by adhering to the rules. Stations were required by law to allocate a set number of minutes each month to Public Affairs programming as part of this license.
News programs were without sponsors, so that the reporting would be just that, reporting… and not parroting the opinion of a sponsor. Each station was required to deliver editorials on community subjects daily. That’s where it belonged.
Usually, the Station Manager, or a person specifically designated as the Public Affairs Director, would deliver this Editorial. It was always an opinion arrived at by a board. WGBH Boston, which was the first PBS Station in the United States, had just turned on its signal.
F. Newton Minnow, the head of the FCC at the time called TV” The vast wasteland”. What do you think he might say about today’s LAX standards and inane programming? Thus, I finally come to the subject of today’s column.
A sports announcer, sportscaster, or analyst is hired to perform a specific function. That is to paint word pictures of an event for the listening or viewing pleasure of the audience. That ,in brief, is the definitive description of why he, or she is hired.
Sports is Entertainment! It is a Public Service Broadcast! It is not a platform for either political, or social commentary! It is meant to be simply the avenue for bringing a game, a contest, or a special event accurately to the viewer… unimpeded in telling its story.
Bob Costas is one of today’s premier announcers. That is without debate. In his capacity as a Network Announcer, he must remain neutral in his descriptions. A sporting event is no place to air personal opinions on social matters. It is the forum for uninterrupted coverage of the event. It is not the place to take a stand in behalf of either side of a cause.
It doesn’t matter if the viewer agrees, or disagrees with him. It is not the announcer’s job! The place for that, even within the sports firmament, is when the program is especially designed for such comments after investigative reporting.
Such a program is “Real Sports with Brian Gumble”. Working within that platform, Mr. Costas, or any announcer is expected to comment. Such a show is made for commentary and the personnel therein are commentators, not just announcers.
Mr. Costas has imposed his opinion twice while acting in the capacity of Sports Announcer… once on “Gun Control” (a debate that rages unabated in our country) and now on the Redskins name. He was wrong and should have kept his opinions to himself.
My column today is one of commentary. So let me close by saying:” Mr. Costas if you would like Dan Snyder to change the name of his NFL team, outside of a sports broadcast, perhaps you could suggest he drop the “Washington” name from his logo. After all, today, unfortunately, that is a name that brings universal shame.