Outside Broadcast

There’s a certain festiveness in the air as one walks past a white van (it’s usually white), its rear door opened to reveal a host of panels and monitors, black electronic boxes brimming with knobs and LED lights, the din of a small generator in the background. Following the line of cables that sprout from the van leads one to the action: A single tv camera propped up on a heavy ballhead tripod, a set of bright lights to either side, with a sort of gel film to correct the light’s temperature. Surrounding the camera is a group of producers and support crew, with the reporter at center stage, both he and the camera setup propped up on hard carry cases to elevate them from the gathered crowd, and to dissuade the latter from doing any “hi mom!” waves to the camera.

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As the team is still off air, the reporter flips through notes, audio is checked, and the crowd looks on at the tv screen also present, which serves as a kind of monitor to check the flow of the tv station’s broadcast. In minutes, they’ll be in it, a wall of faces enhancing the pedestrian atmosphere.

The said broadcast team hails from one of the regional networks of a major TV station, here to cover an anniversary of a bloody event, marked with protest and calls for justice. I was also covering the event for my university’s publication, and shot this frame in the middle of a lull in the event. I won’t be mentioning the reporter’s name, but I can say that he is known for not mincing words and getting straight to the point, a penchant which has in the past gotten him in trouble with the people he critiques.

The whole setup, despite being a common sight, stands out in the middle of San Pedro Street, where I shot this photo. The whole scene reminds me of San Pedro’s billiard halls, with crowds gathered around a single table, a high-stakes game in progress. I’m also reminded of the crowds that gather around the dubious magicians and snake oil salesmen that occasionally ply their trade with blaring loudspeakers on San Pedro, although the tv networks have far more credibility and higher standards.

There really is a degree of showmanship and performance in the media, especially TV. The outside broadcast itself never fails to give off a concert-like vibe; the lights and the milling crowd adding to the feeling of anticipation. Meanwhile, reporters and news readers have their own signatures, be it a catchphrase, a certain accent, a deliberate quirk in the pronunciation.

I guess it’s all part of packaging; how in today’s world, beyond the profundity and veracity of the message, presentation matters a lot. Catch the audience’s attention and hold it, so that the message may be delivered. After all, we’ve seen how time and again, the most important messages are eclipsed by inanities and frivolous content simply because of ineffective delivery.

At a signal from the producer, the whole team clicks into action. The reporter locks eyes with the camera, with the world, essentially, and he begins his coverage. I, meanwhile, turn my attention back to the program we were covering, and continue taking photos.

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