Viewers feel more positive towards disabled people following Channel 4's Paralympic coverage.

By Max Willey

During the course of the London 2012 Paralympics, Channel 4 broadcast almost 500 hours of coverage, four times that of the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, and reached an audience of 37 million people. A study from BDRC and YouGov has investigated the effects the Paralympic television coverage has had on the country’s perceptions of disability and disabled sport in particular.

The success of Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympics is clear – for half of viewers this was the first Paralympics they had ever watched but two thirds actually found themselves watching more of the games than they had expected to. Channel 4 achieved its biggest audience in over 10 years when it broadcast the opening ceremony, with 11.2 million people tuning in to watch the start of the games. Viewing figures stayed high throughout, but Jonnie Peacock’s gold medal win in the T44 100m brought in the biggest crowd with 6.3 million viewers watching the race.

This wide reaching coverage created the opportunity for a serious impact on the UK public, and so BDRC and Yougov’s study questioned both those who had and hadn’t watched the games on their perceptions about disabled people and disabled athletes. The coverage certainly seems to have had a positive effect: 65% agree that the coverage has had a favourable impact on their perceptions towards people with disabilities and 68% on their perceptions of disabled sport.

When asked whether they agreed that disabled athletes were as talented as able-bodied athletes and whether the Paralympics were as good as the Olympics, 9% and 15% more respectively of those who had watched the Paralympic coverage agreed than those who hadn’t. Four in five viewers felt they knew more about disabled sport than ever before.

Outside the sport itself, Channel 4 invested £600,000 in identifying, training and developing eight new disabled presenters and reporters for the coverage. According to the study, three quarters of viewers enjoyed the fact that there were disabled presenters on screen and the matter of fact discussions about disability which took place. Continuing their support for disabled on-screen talent, Channel 4 have pledged a further £250,000 to develop these presenters’ roles and identify new avenues for disabled-talent across a range of television genres.

BDRC and YouGov’s study has highlighted the positive effect of Channel 4’s wide reaching coverage of the Paralympic games. The large audience has shown that people kept coming back for more and has created many new Paralympics enthusiasts. Viewers overwhelmingly felt they understand disabled sport more and have developed an improved perception of people with disabilities and disabled athletes.

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