Tuesday, July 12, 2005

We Now Go Live On Scene...Sort of.

From a TV news shooter who's been publishing on the web before most of us could even spell 'blog', Tim Rutherford of Photog's Lounge brings us an enlightening article about live shots in the age of a ravenous FCC.

Penned by Allison Romano of Broadcasting & Cable magazine, the piece examines the Catch-22 station managers find themselves faced with these days. On one hand, they have millions of dollars invested in live shot technology as well as a long-held belief that these remote broadcasts are of utmost import. On the other hand, the suits in the newsroom are terrified that any untoward actions broadcast live will result in paralyzing fines from the FCC. These fears were crystallized recently when a group of female bikers with a penchant for nudity breezed through a San Francisco live remote. No mammaries made a cameo that day, but it goes to show that even in an environment steeped in live coverage, money talks and unauthorized genitalia walks. From the article:

'Such vigilance may sound paranoid, but around the country, local stations are installing expensive new tape-delay equipment, scouting locations in advance and warning camera crews about the potential for indecent shots due to the FCC's recent crackdown on indecency offensives. While no stations have delayed news broadcasts yet, much of what small markets consider news—parades, sporting events, town hall meetings—is being altered.'

Perhaps, but I have a hard time believing the local newscasts will ever be regularly tape-delayed. Technically, doing so would be frightfully easy, but the very idea of news in the can flies in the face of what we broadcast journalists work so very hard to do. Locally, we live and die by the live shot - to deprive viewers of this venerable (if not often needless) show component would send certain senior staffers into dangerous convulsions, while at the same time sparking fits of joy among many in the photog set. No, our live shots aren't going anywhere. If anything they'll multiply as the stifling humidity of a Piedmont summer breaks and hurricanes, high school football and early blizzards beckon news crews to roadside ruts and washed-out overpasses far and wide.

With little guidance from the mercurial enforcers of the FCC, broadcast outlets will no doubt continue to keep going live with their collective fingers crossed. As a result, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger will have one more thing to worry about while juggling all the gadgets that make up your average live shot: the constant threat that a malicious passerby will drop an F-bomb or worse yet, expose a renegade breast. So thanks alot, Janet Jackson - you show off your million dollar nipple bling and I end up with a whole new checklist to contend with come showtime. I'm beginning to think I'm on the wrong end of this business.

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