Channel 4’s coverage of this summer’s Paralympics in Tokyo will be a vital opportunity to put disabled people and disability back onto the mainstream agenda, according to one of its disabled presenters.
The broadcaster announced this week that more than 70 per cent of its presenting team will be disabled people – a record number for UK television – as it provides more than 300 hours of coverage on its main channel.
Some of the coverage will be presented from Tokyo, with some shows to be hosted in the UK.
Channel 4 said its plans for the games would be its most ambitious yet for a Paralympics, including dedicating its More 4 channel to team sports, and featuring 16 livestreams on its Paralympics micro-website.
Disabled presenters will include Ade Adepitan, who will present the highlights show, Arthur Williams, JJ Chalmers, Ed Jackson and Sophie Morgan, as well as Adam Hills, Alex Brooker and comedian and writer Rosie Jones on The Last Leg.
Disabled pundits offering expert sporting analysis will include Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, Steve Brown, Liam Malone, Danny Crates and Liz Johnson.
Channel 4 said its coverage of the Paralympics would be the most accessible ever, with Channel 4 and More 4 offering live subtitles, and parallel live coverage of the opening ceremony on 4Seven that will offer British Sign Language interpretation and audio description.
Most of the content on the Paralympics micro-website will also have subtitles, said Channel 4.
There will also be a series of disability-themed programmes in the build-up to the Paralympics, including Jonnie’s Blade Camp, a two-part documentary featuring two-time Paralympic gold medallist Jonnie Peacock; a one-off documentary featuring amputee racing driver and presenter Billy Monger training with British Paralympic stars; and a Come Dine with Me Paralympics special.
The channel will also broadcast Sophie’s Great Escape, a two-part documentary featuring disabled presenter Sophie Morgan testing alternative lifestyles as she travels on a modified three-wheeled motorbike from Cornwall to Scotland.
Morgan told Disability News Service (DNS) this week that it was a “really important time” for disabled people to be featuring in the mainstream, with “so many of us being forgotten” during the pandemic.
She said: “It gives us a chance to remind people that we are here and that in addition to the sporting efforts and achievements that we are going to see in the games it is a great time to remind people of the challenges that disabled people face, the many barriers that still exist in society, and the ways in which we fight to overcome them and will continue to do so.
“Every games carries with it another responsibility and I think this time, post-COVID, these games in particular need to remind people just how much disability needs to be thought about, not forgotten about as it usually is, not side-lined.”
She welcomed the announcement that more than 70 per cent of presenters would be disabled people and that Channel 4 was “once again taking the lead”, particularly in the wake of the failure of broadcasters to meet targets on off-screen representation of disabled people, as reported last month (PDF) by the Creative Diversity Network.
Morgan will be covering the swimming in Tokyo, reporting from the pool alongside retired three-time Paralympic gold medallist Giles Long.
And she said her own show, Sophie’s Great Escape, would be a “step in the right direction” because it was “not necessarily about disability”.
Baroness Grey-Thompson, herself the winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals in athletics, who will be splitting her time between Channel 4 and BBC, will mostly be commentating on athletics but may also cover wider issues.
She told DNS: “We know that sport brings people together, especially when there are successful moments or British athletes are doing well.
“I think right now we need some cheering up and as we have seen with the Euros, sport is a great way to do that.
“The number of disabled people employed is very positive, although I am keen to see more disabled people employed in the media outside Paralympic sport.
“In the last couple of months, we have seen more disabled people in TV adverts, which again is a step forward, but it needs to be more natural and not a surprise when we do see it.”
Picture: (From left to right) Baroness Grey-Thompson, Ade Adepitan and Sophie Morgan
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