We have Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin making up history. We have reality shows that are edited for maximum entertainment. And now we have the CBS showing fake, impossible views of the July 4th fireworks in Boston. This was the headline story in the Boston Globe this morning and what greeted me when I picked up the paper.
Those who watched Boston’s revered Fourth of July celebration Monday night on CBS were treated to spectacular views of fireworks exploding behind the State House, Quincy Market, and home plate at Fenway Park, among other places – great views, until you consider that they were physically impossible.
But most disturbing was organizer David Mugar’s reaction.
Mugar said the added images were above board because the show was entertainment and not news. He said it was no different than TV drama producer David E. Kelley using scenes from his native Boston in his show “Boston Legal’’ but shooting the bulk of each episode on a studio set in Hollywood.
“Absolutely, we’re proud to show scenes from our city,’’ Mugar said. “It’s often only shown in film or in sporting matches. We were able to highlight great places in Boston, historical places with direct ties to the Fourth. So we think it was a good thing.’’
A CBS Television spokesman declined comment about whether the network was aware of, or approved of, the fireworks show being digitally altered.
So, it is OK to shoot landmarks separately and then add them to a live fireworks display. I don’t think so. There is a difference between a fictional show like “Boston Legal” and a live broadcast. It would be like the Red Sox adding footage of David Ortiz hitting one out of the park during batting practice and calling it part of the game. Or the Celtics adding footage of Ray Allen hitting a three pointer. Live entertainment is just that: live. You don’t know exactly what is going to happen and that is part of the reason we watch things live.
And what do we do about the tourists who come next year to see the fireworks behind the State House and find out they can’t see them?
Eric Deggans, a Florida-based media critic and regular panelist on CNN’s media critique show “Reliable Sources,’’ said the altered video presents a potential credibility problem for CBS.
“It is an ethical issue, and to say it’s not because the show was aired through CBS Entertainment is to imply that the entertainment side of CBS has no ethics,’’ Deggans said. “I think – especially in today’s media environment – the most important commandment for media is to not mislead the viewer. . . . If you’re a viewer who doesn’t know Boston, you’re getting a picture of the layout of the city that doesn’t exist.’’
Asked about Mugar’s argument that the show was entertainment so the usual rules did not apply, Clodfelter, the commenter from Brighton, said if that’s the case “why not superimpose Neil Armstrong on the moon?’’
Exactly. No wonder there are people who believe that the moon landings are staged in Arizona. Mugar has done a wonderful organizing and sponsoring the fireworks for many years, but he is absolutely wrong about this.