Thursday, May 12, 2005

Live shooting in Los Angeles

The LA Times published a report today about two live television broadcasts that showed the fatal shooting at the conclusion of a dramatic 50-minute police pursuit yesterday.

I agree with KTLA TV Channel 5 News Director Jeff Wald's assesment that "There's no reason on God's earth why you need to show an actual shooting," but I don't believe for a second that he feels that way. They aired it, and if they were so troubled by what they showed their viewers, I doubt they would have aired a tape of it on a later broadcast.

Their policy is to use a wide shot if violence appears imminent. An interesting concept, but not quite the same as cutting away. The policy is a joke, you're still watching somebody get shot to death. Speaking of jokes, imagine if there was a live comedy broadcast in which the station airing the program instructed their crew to lower the volume if the comic gave an indication that he was about to curse. Good idea, huh? That way you could still get the joke, but the dirty part would be harder to hear. I mean, probably. Think that would fly?

Not that we should blame the station, I mean it could not have been apparent to even the news team's seasoned eyes that this was going to end badly, right? After all: live breaking news! A reasonable point, however the assessment of another local news director, Robert Long of KNBC-TV Channel 4, could be interpretted to suggest otherwise, when he said it was "apparent to the seasoned eye that it was going to end badly."

Now considering that Janet Jackson's nipple cost CBS over half a million dollars and sent the FCC on a decency rampage, how will they deal with broadcasting footage of a person being killed? Seems to me CBS should get a refund. Except for one thing, that other station that aired the shooting actually was a CBS affiliate.

Televised violent death or wardrobe malfunction? Stay tuned, we'll see which one provokes more outrage.