The need for social distancing (SD) has created a nightmare for TV broadcasters. Appearing on the TV screen from home has separated the men for the boys, the woman from the girls and the look-at-me personality from reality.
As we live in the age of technology it is appropriate that we use the stuff to the full. But like many developments it is an initial question of one forward two back. The sound quality is embryonic, produced by a tiny, tiny microphone stuffed in the gubbins. OK for the occasional family chat but a travesty on the full to air broadcasters. The needs of SD has necessitated the interviewee’s to be sat at home, in front of the perfectly arranged bookcase. I imagine home deliveries of the IKEA ‘Billy bookcase’ has shot through the roof. Midnight sessions in screwing the thing together and then printing out the images of covers of carefully selected books nicked from the internet, fictions and non fiction to recover all those trashy books you really own.
Then the up the nose shot, the top of head revelation, and the family pet/child wandering through the shot. Make sure the tats and piercings are spruced up and off we go. Pause whilst the internet gathers a little bit of pace, by shouting at the kids or next door kids to hold fire on their X boxes and we’re live from your front room. Unless you are a celebrity when you need to consider broadcasting form your extensive kitchen with kids splashing in the vast pool behind you.
Coordination from the ‘studio’; somebody somewhere must be pushing buttons and off we go, cracking, dropped connections. lousy sound quality frozen images and another Vox pop is aired.
The downside to all this is the professional reporter is measured alongside the amateur. Some are struggling. Some are seen sitting in front of £50k worth of TV gadgetry versus the guy in the street using his smart phone, in portrait inevitably.
Next we witness what happens when feral reporters attempt to get the doom exclusive by haranguing some poor government bod who is dealing with a unique experience and is expected to recite chapter and verse of the predetermined policy that should have developed years ago. This ignores that the same reporter would have ripped the same government party to shreds for expenditure laid down on a what if basis ( see defence budget). The interview style has become too aggressive and destroys what little faith we might have that the China virus might finally leave the planet earth and in the meantime need a good dose of optimism.
The daily government briefings, “Hancocks half hour” comprise of detailed briefings by senior bods responsible for our national wellbeing followed by questions from reporters. Most of these questions have already been answered in the briefings but reporters feel they have to ask something and their question was formulated before the briefing started and they haven’t worked out a substitute. Some ‘senior’ press have noticeably disappeared from the ritual. But the Machiavellian in me takes delight in the remote control. When a Channel 4 reporter starting to ask a pertinent question, the sound was suddenly “lost”. She tried again and again a ‘click’. The sight of her fuming and muttering under a breath made the whole event worth watching.
One of the great joys to emerge after the virus has finally been tamed will be the return to professional broadcasting providing it had been irreparably damaged in the process.