Migrant Workers in Sochi, Russia: CBC Coverage – TV’s “The National” vs. Radio’s “News Now”

[Written November 1st, 2013]

With one hundred days left to the Sochi Winter Games, more and more concern has risen surrounding the treatment of migrant workers in Sochi, Russia. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has done little to address the issue in a way that would have anything change. According to Human Rights Watch, tens of thousands of workers have been brought in to Sochi to create numerous state-of-the-art facilities for the upcoming Winter Games. It has appeared that the conditions created for these workers have proven to be anything but favourable “with employers failing to pay their wages, confiscating workers’ passports, and forcing them to toil up to 12 hours a day with only one day off each month [which is] all in violation of Russian law” and the Olympic charter for that matter.

Man arrested after asking boss for his overdue paycheque

Man arrested after asking boss for his overdue paycheque

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) covered this story on both their national TV broadcast network and their national Radio broadcast network. I specifically want to look at how the coverage differed from one of  their top radio programs, Here and Now to their top evening news broadcast, The National. Here and Now‘s story on the human rights issues ran on October 30th, while The National‘s TV story ran during the November 2nd broadcast.

The story on both mediums was about how migrant workers are being treated in Russia, but how they tell the story is quite different. Here and Now had a story that was broader and brought in an expert on the main issue of the story – the human rights violations. Minky Warden is the Director of Global Initiatives for Human Rights Watch. She is very knowledgeable about the details of the story and can articulate it to the listening audience. She holds the position of an outsider seeing these violations and  wanting to do something about it.

The National on the other hand covers the story as a whole, but with a clear focus on one man’s story as oppose to the plight of all the refugees. Abduvali Odunayev’s is one of the migrant workers affected by the working violations. The TV coverage shows him working in the unfavourable conditions and then talks to him personally. Because you actually get to put a face to someone going through these hardships,  it is easier to follow as a viewer. You can now imagine everything being said happening to nice Abduvali and the story has more of an impact.

Susan Sontag talked about the power of the image and how we feel we have the right to see everything nowadays. It is not enough for us to just hear about the atrocities and violations happening to these workers in Sochi, we want to actually see this village that hasn’t had running water for 4 months. We want to see if it is really as bad as they are saying. Though Abduvalli is quite open and transparent, maybe other workers don’t want to be broadcast all over, but our desire and feeling that we have the right to see over shadows those people.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 4.50.05 PM

Construction manager walking through site

It is also important to note that while the radio coverage talked to one expert on the whole situation, the TV coverage had interviews with four different people who all specialized in different things: Abduvali is a worker himself, a construction manager, a migrant lawyer, etc. It is also interesting that The Nationals version covered opinions from four people in 2:53m while the radio story talked to one person for 6:09m. This may be because when people are watching, they want quick images with variety that don’t show the same thing or person. It is also easier for viewers to follow various people talking when they can put faces to the voices. Radio on the other hand might get confusing if five people were speaking one after the other. This is why is it more effective to have one person explain the whole situation to listeners.

Understandably,  on the television medium, CBC focuses more on individuals and detailed visuals whereas on their radio shows, they focus more on the spoken details so that people can create their own visuals.

Are these understandable differences? Why do you think they exist? Write in the comments!

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