Friday, April 27, 2007

Court TV has a new schedule...

You may not know his face, but you probably know his work - "To Know Him Is To Love Him," "He's A Rebel," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Be My Baby," "Then He Kissed Me," "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin"...even if you hate oldies radio, you've heard these records in countless movies. They may be credited to different artists, but these records were all produced by the same man: Phil Spector. One of the most influential figures in rock, he's also had a long history of emotional instability, and in 2003, his turbulent personal life finally caught up with him. Now facing homicide charges for the death of Lana Clarkson, Court TV is planning to broadcast the whole trial.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "the last time a California megatrial was televised, the defendant was O.J. Simpson."

Personally, I think the public should have plenty of access to the court, but I have a lot of conflicted feelings regarding access and all the extra baggage that comes with covering high-profile trials.

In the article, media attorney Kelli Sager says "studies have found TV cameras to have no effect on jurors, witnesses or trial proceedings," but you have to wonder how this study was conducted and whether an accurate scientific study is even possible. Even if the impact is minimal, looking back at the O.J. Simpson trial, the whole thing was a circus from start-to-finish. A brutal double homicide was diminished by endless camp and bad talk-show jokes (Dancing Itos?), and nearly everyone involved cashed-in on their 15 minutes of fame. Court TV wasn't a public service anymore - it was the ne plus ultra of "reality" television, long before Survivor hit the airwaves on either side of the Atlantic.

Then again, why should anyone complain? More than half the U.S. population saw the verdict live on television, which is really impressive considering the verdict happened in the middle of the day. I was in calculus at the time, and my teacher stopped the class when she saw the other math classes rushing by the doorway to the nearest TV. None of this was planned, the whole school just stopped and headed for a television set like trained cattle. I was grateful to get out of calculus, but the fact is, there were a dozen other things I could've done, and I went with the rest of the herd without protest.

If I was a gambling man, I'd bet against the likelihood of a repeat. Spector doesn't have the same celebrity status as Simpson, his lawyers' argument probably won't have the same level of controversy, and even if Spector is eccentric in the most unendearing way possible, I don't think it'll be enough to draw the same audience.

Still, the groundwork has been set, and with TV ratings still experiencing a gradual, downward slide, it'll be interesting to see how this will be covered (or marketed, if you want to be REALLY cynical about it).


At Saturday, April 28, 2007, Blogger MK said...

Access to court rooms by TV cameras is a very interesting topic. As journalists, we want access to the courts. Court proceedings are open to the public but cameras face many restrictions. Check out the Web site of the Radio and Television News Director Association for a complete state-by-state listing of camera restrictions. Once we get full access, the onus is on the media to provide responsible coverage. This means longer sound bytes and more explanations from legal experts (and this doesn't mean speculation). As a journalist and as someone with interest in the law, I believe we should have access but we need to do it responsibly.

At Monday, April 30, 2007, Blogger GN said...

You are probably right, Phil Spector won't command the same attention that O.J. Simpson did. But that goes to show that the problems of how the media handles courtroom access starts way before we get to the courtroom: The way the media hones in on certain people and elevates them to stardom (Paris Hilton anyone?) or, in this case, notoriety. I bet a sports figure in court will beat a business person or even politician any time. But I'm going off tangent.
I'm all for courtroom access. I think given full access, the media might have a chance to go beyond the big, sensational fish and focus on the real drama in the courtrooms - the human tragedy and how society has failed certain groups entirely. That's what I learned from the legal RPA. The public needs to see that.

At Monday, November 10, 2008, Anonymous Sanne said...

Thanks for writing this.


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