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BBC's wrong Kapoor footage: why this happens all the time

Blog post   •   Dec 06, 2017 17:20 +08

This is the screen shot of the TV program as it appeared on the BBC website

The BBC's screening of incorrect footage in one of its news bulletins strikes at the heart of an issue that plagues all newsrooms, including the one where I used to work.

The backstory is that the BBC showed two clips of the wrong actor while reporting the death of Shashi Kapoor.

The BBC writes that the program's editor Paul Royall apologised on Twitter for the mistake shortly after the bulletin aired.

But let's get real. This sort of thing happens all the time on all manner of channels, not just the BBC.

I recall a particular story during my time at CNBC where we ran a news story about the Hilton Hotel chain, but the footage on screen showed a property with Hyatt branding. Or when we ran a story about FedEx, but showed a plane decked out in the livery of their outdated "Federal Express" branding. Or the footage of the pre-Olympics construction site in Sydney's Martin Place, which was still put to air a decade (!) after the Olympics were over.

The reason this happens with embarrassing frequency on many channels is that cutting the footage is usually done by the most junior members of the production team, the so-called News Assistants. It's their job to go into the video library, or to access the relevant feed from Reuters, APTN, Bloomberg TV, PR Newswire and other sources, and then edit the footage. They edit in-line with the duration of the anchor reading the story to air - not necessarily for meaning.

Because this wallpaper footage, commonly referred to as b-roll, is incidental - but not critical - to the story it doesn't usually get the level of attention most viewers think. And it certainly gets next to zero attention from overworked News Editors, of which, I suspect, Paul Royall is one.

For spokespeople appearing in the media, this is just another sign of how important it is to remain proactively engaged with the production team. Proactively offer the TV station your own up-to-date and correct footage, images or photos, before you show up for your interview.

While clearly out of the question for the late Mr Kapoor, working with the crew is better than hoping they will choose the right footage from some likely outdated vision library.

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