18 February 2003
Fear of dead air
When there is breaking news real breaking news, as distinguished from the parade of ephemera that is routinely pitched as such on television the first commandment becomes "Get pictures!" And get pictures they will even someone else's.
During Columbia's last mission, the first pictures came from WFAA-TV in Dallas, an ABC affiliate which has an agreement with CNN. When CNN went live with the story, they used WFAA's video. At a couple of points, so did Fox News, though Fox had no prior arrangement with WFAA. As an experiment, CNN sneaked a small logo into the far corner of the screen, and watched with bemusement as it appeared on the Fox monitor.
Is this actionable? Probably not. Satellite feeds are all over the place, and keeping them out of "unauthorized" hands is likely more trouble than it's worth. And cooperation is not unheard of: during the unfolding of 9/11, all the major networks agreed to share whatever they had. CNN, in fact, considers the Fox action during the Columbia disaster to fall within the bounds of fair use, but it would have been nice if they'd asked first.