NZ Cricket Fans are Shamefully Served by Radio Sport

Most of the posts I write here are intended for people with an interest in blindness technology. I hope this one will be of interest to a far wider audience, because quality radio coverage of cricket has been a Kiwi tradition and expectation for generations.

As a blind person, the Sky coverage isn’t as enjoyable for me, since naturally, they don’t need to describe every delivery in great detail. So I go out of my way to find radio coverage of cricket.

But radio coverage is also important for socio-economic reasons. Even if you’d like Sky, but can’t afford it, at least you had the radio.

Even if you have Sky, there are times when the radio coverage is just more convenient. When you’re at work and want to enjoy a game while getting things done, the radio coverage only occupies a little of one of your senses.

It’s been there for well over half a century for New Zealanders painting the house, enjoying some time at the beach, or curled up under the covers at night when an important game’s being played on the other side of the world.

We’ve seen a progressive thumbing of Radio Sport’s nose at cricket coverage in recent years, but what they’re doing in the context of the Cricket World Cup is a step too far, and something needs to be done.

Cricket coverage on Radio Sport started going down-hill when they stopped broadcasting domestic four-day games. I accept that you might have to be really into the game to miss those. It could be argued by Radio Sport that the cost of covering them, plus the disruption to other programming, didn’t make sense given that Radio Sport is a commercial operation and the broadcasts only interest a handful of devotees. For a short time, there was a compromise and the games were broadcast online via Radio Sport Extra.

Games by our national team are in a completely different category, and effort ought to be made to cover every game. Last year, not for the first time, we didn’t get live radio coverage of a critical international test and one-day series when New Zealand took on Pakistan. There were some thrillers in that series I would dearly love to have heard via a radio commentary. The excuse for these sorts of decisions is that cricket rights are expensive. To me that’s just a cost of being in the business they’re in.

But what is happening now is just outrageous. We have one of the biggest events in sport, the Cricket World Cup, taking place in part right here in New Zealand. During the pool phase of the tournament, Radio Sport had decided only to broadcast games in which New Zealand are playing. New Zealand Radio listeners missed out on the incredible batting displays in the Australia England game, and the plucky performance by Zimbabwe against South Africa that made the game more exciting than many were expecting. They also missed a fantastic performance by Ireland against the West Indies. These latter two games were being played right here in New Zealand.

It’s not that these games are tucked away somewhere on Radio Sport’s website, there’s just no ball-by-ball radio commentary to be heard in New Zealand anywhere.

To make this situation even more bizarre, Radio Sport commentators are being used in the pool commentary that is being shared by the BBC, the ABC, and possibly other radio broadcasters.

Presumably at the request of the ICC, a range of streams that used to work on the TuneIn service which has a website and smartphone apps no longer work. I thought this was a decision Radio Sport took alone, as discussed in my previous post, but it’s gone far further than this. For some years, it has been possible to listen to the BBC or ABC coverage of live cricket, even when the stream was intended only for people residing in their home countries. It required a minimal investment in technology to make it seem like you were listening from the appropriate country. If you want to investigate such technology, I can highly recommend the Hide My Ass VPN service. That geo-blocking technology continues to be used, but if you’re a smartphone user, you have to go hunting outside of TuneIn to find out how to get the streams. So there has been a new hurdle introduced.

Even if there’s some argument to be made that there’s not enough public interest in the world’s most important tournament of our national summer game, a notion I find laughable, Radio Sport could at least make the commentary they are participating in available online.

If one can get access to the ABC or BBC commentaries, you can get radio coverage of every single game, and what’s more, it’s ad free.

If I thought another petition on this subject would help, I would start one. But Radio Sport has already shown what they think of online petitions. They may as well come clean and rename themselves Radio Rugby. They’re not giving cricket the attention and respect it deserves.

Perhaps it’s time for New Zealand Cricket to seek to negotiate other arrangements for radio coverage, or separate the Internet rights from the terrestrial radio rights, so some enterprising operation can have a go at providing decent online radio coverage. I’d gladly pay a subscription.

It’s also time for the ICC to take a look at the fragmented nature of cricket coverage. While I realise there’s a big difference in scope and logistics between the MLB, which is purely North American, and cricket, which is global, I envy the baseball fans who can pick up one app, and pay a subscription to either hear or see every game, depending on their needs. Cricket fans are being badly served at present, and the game’s not keeping up with new delivery mechanisms for radio and TV ball-by-ball commentary.

There is another option. Cricket radio coverage used to be provided by New Zealand’s public broadcaster, as for the most part it is in Australia and the UK. If Radio Sport really can’t make decent cricket coverage work commercially, then maybe it’s time to seek NZ On-Air funding for it.

For now, I’m going to continue to tune into the ABC or BBC just in order to hear games played in my own country, on occasion even a few KM down the road. What an absurd situation.

Shame on you, Radio Sport.

4 Comments

  1. Chuck Brady

    Being based in the U.S., I am quite familar with the MLB service that you describe. For those who don’t know what Jonathan is describing, one can pay $20 U.S. a year to listen to each and every baseball game, home and away commentary, from the beginning of the preseason through their final round. This encompasses in the area of 1300 matches. Also, the Australian Football League (AFL) has an innovative approach. They have all of their radio broadcast streams available for free through their official app without geoblocking. This includes local and national feeds.

    The ICC needs to have an option of some type of app where radio broadcast are available, even if it is for a fee. Dare I say there would be millions of people across the globe that would pay for this coverage.

  2. James

    Not much Consolation, but Tunein for Geo-restricted content is broken in the UK as well. The BBC have switched from WMA to shoutcast mp3 and in the long-term are switching to HLS streams – search for “BBC audio factory” for blog posts on this including comments I wrote about blindness-specific products and the impact this will have on them. A lot of people in the UK are not happy. I am surprised you are not getting good coverage on Radio Sport – I kind of assumed that they would have been carrying it. Presumably they are making money from the use of their commentators, so that tells you all you need to know about how they see things. Agree a dedicated app with a subscription and world-wide access would make it much much easier.

  3. Anthony Horvath

    Hi Jonathan,
    Fantastic post.
    I’ve been in conversation with someone at Radio Sport, so thought I’d share the conversation with you and the readers.
    Please note however: I’ve removed reference to the person’s name and of course the e-mail addresses.
    I’ve also, to make it easier to read included the conversation with my original message first to make it easier to read.
    Sent: Monday, 16 February 2015 7:58 p.m.
    Subject: Lack of World Cup Cricket radio commentary in New Zealand

    Hi,
    As someone who really looked forward to Radio Sport starting up in the late 1990’s, I must say the direction the station is going now is the main reason I’ve not listened now for close to two years.
    However, with the 2015 Cricket World Cup taking place here in New Zealand and Australia, that was going to change, or so I thought.
    I very clearly remember the 1992 World Cup and the wall-to-wall coverage we got then, and as a blind 13 year old I was hooked. No need to worry about television!
    So you can imagine how shocked I was to here no coverage of Australia V England, in fact we’ve had absolutely nothing at all since New Zealand’s fantastic win over Sri Lanka.
    The ironic thing is I work with technology for my living so I’m able to find ways to access radio coverage from England, Australia, and even South Africa. Who by the way, are broadcasting all the games.
    All this is online, but at least it’s something.
    Yet there is absolutely nothing on Radio Sport apart from talk after talk after talk.
    At first I thought it sounds like Radio Sport failed to get broadcasting permission?
    However, considering I’ve been hearing NZ broadcasters on the feeds I have found, this idea was quickly squashed.
    I can only hope this is an oversight that will be corrected?
    I’m lucky enough to be heading to three games myself.
    NZ V England, England V Sri Lanka, and the quarter final in Wellington.
    I’m concerned being totally blind, I now run the risk of not being able to follow the game between England v Sri Lanka as you seem to refuse to broadcast non-New Zealand matches.
    This annoys me I must admit, considering I paid for a ticket to a match I might not be able to follow.
    I’ve tried, it least I think I have to find any justification for why you are not covering the other World cup matches, but I’m afraid I can’t seem to come up with a satisfactory answer.
    All I can think about is the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Everything was broadcasted then, feels like double standards I’m afraid.
    A Cricket world cup back in New Zealand after 23 years, and no live coverage on “New Zealand’s number one Sorts station.”
    You guys have really dropped the ball with this one I’m afraid.

    Sent: Monday, 16 February 2015 10:24 p.m.
    Subject: RE: Lack of World Cup Cricket radio commentary in New Zealand
    Hi Anthony

    Thanks for your email and feedback. Radio Sport has committed to live coverage of all of New Zealand’s pool games and the finals series. This is similar coverage to previous world cups on Radio Sport.
    With Super Rugby, NRL, Breakers, Phoenix and Netball all commencing in the next month we are chocker with sport coverage and are struggling to fit all of this along with Cricket World Cup on the radio.
    Unlike Sky TV we don’t have 6 or 7 channels to broadcast on and a number of NRL and Super Rugby games are being bumped to online to make way for live cricket.
    For this reason we won’t be covering other games on the radio. We have however had a number of similar comments in the last 48 hours to yours, expressing more interest in the other NZ matches than we expected. We’re now trying to work through online coverage for the other matches and hope to have a positive outcome in the coming days.

    Regards

    Hi,
    Firstly, thanks for your quick response very much appreciated.
    However, with respect this isn’t just general cricket, it’s a Cricket World Cup, the pinnacle of the sport.
    Let me first address two of your point:
    “Radio Sport has committed to live coverage of all of New Zealand’s pool games and the finals series. This is similar coverage to previous world cups on Radio Sport.”
    I agree with this, however, none of those World Cups were in fact in our own back yard.
    “a number of NRL and Super Rugby games are being bumped to online to make way for live cricket.”
    This is hardly a huge gesture, considering you’re only moving games that clash with New Zealand’s matches, and the playoffs.
    Super Rugby: Friday February 20, clashes with the Chiefs home game, Saturday, 28 February, a clash with Chiefs v Crusaders, 13 March, a clash with a Hurricanes home game.
    The 20th of March clashes with a Highlanders home game, and the 21st of March a Crusaders home game. No clash for the final. So only five rugby games in total.
    The NRL: A clash on march 8, although these don’t involve the Warriors.
    Same can be said for the 13th.
    The 20th and 21st of March clash, and on the 21st involves The Warriors.
    And a clash on the 29th which does involve the Warriors .
    Hardly dramatic reading I would have thought? They are both very long seasons.
    Netball, NRL, Breakers, and yes, even Super rugby is held each year.
    Surely, a world cup should take priority over everything else, even more so when it’s in our own country?
    I’m pleased to see you’re admitting you’ve got it completely wrong, and are looking at online options.
    However, this is not ideal when you are at the ground and rely on radio coverage because of the delay, which I’m sure you are aware of? A delay which is even worse when streaming online content which also uses data.
    Another issue with that is your decision to remove Radio sport from TuneIn radio in favour of iHeart Radio. From a blindness perspective, this is rather inaccessible, so again we end up losing out unless one sits in front of their computer.
    I urge you again, to re-think your decision here.
    I see no reason why you can’t at least have the games here in New Zealand live on radio, as most won’t actually interfere with those other sports, and if they do it’s hardly the end of the world if those sports are moved to online.
    After all, you have three options for broadcasting content. Radio itself, online via Radio Sport, and Radio Sport Extra.
    When you consider things, I just want to ask you this question:
    If, the Rugby World Cup was to be hell in New Zealand again and it was to clash with netball, the Breakers, Nrl, the Phoenix, and a cricket test series against Australia, would you still broadcast every rugby game live on radio, and let the coverage of other sports stream on line? Sadly, I believe that answer to be yes, 2011, a good example here, and so there really is no justification for refusing to do the same, especially since more than half the time you’re not actually broadcasting live sport anyway, but only providing nothing but Talk Sport. Talk sport that on the weekends at least, is a relay from News Talk ZB, which anyone can listen too.
    This was the case all of Sunday, and yesterday.
    It will also be the same tomorrow, and Thursday, I think you get my point.
    You’ve really got this wrong I’m afraid.
    This is the biggest event here in New Zealand/Australia right now, and therefore deserves radio coverage, not relegated to online coverage.
    Online coverage is the option that should be used for less important events like the Netball, the Breakers, NRL, and super Rugby.
    After all, you only broadcast the Breakers games, and there last game isn’t on until Sunday.
    You only ever seem to broadcast one game of Netball, and that’s always a Monday evening, NRL doesn’t start for a few more weeks, and is a long season.
    And like I said before, Super Rugby, this thing drags on until July, it’s hardly on the scale of an International event such as a Cricket World cup in your own country.
    Once again, thanks for your quick response, and at least you’re re-thinking your decision, although the fact you’re having to rethink things in the first place astounds me.

  4. Ketan Kothari

    I am ashamed that although ICC is minting money on account of TV rights and are looking at expanding the game, this arrogance is increasing in every tournament. I am afraid, this will lead to some kind of a downfall.

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