TV feed of Blunt's State of the State address featured only Republicans

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Viewers complained to TV stations that they were only being shown half the chamber

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- One benefit to being governor apparently is being able to pick your camera angles.

The Missouri government provided the statewide televised feed for Gov. Matt Blunt's State of the State speech in the Missouri House on Wednesday and pictured only Republicans applauding Blunt's comments, not the more subdued Democrats.

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson oversaw elements of the broadcast, including choosing what the cameras viewed and which scenes were broadcast. The broadcast, which showed lawmakers applauding Blunt 60 times and rising to their feet 25 times, was made with state equipment and staff. The state paid for an hour of satellite time to broadcast it live.

Mid-Missouri television stations KOMU-TV in Columbia and KRCG-TV in Jefferson City said they received complaints from viewers who noted they were being shown only the Republicans' reactions.

During a newscast later that night, KRCG's Kermit Miller explained to viewers that the speech footage had been supplied by the state. He acknowledged that the station should have told viewers that earlier.

"Certainly we had no control over that feed and no control over the fact of what viewers saw was one view of how the speech was reacted to in the hall," Gregg Palermo, KRCG's news director, told the Columbia Daily Tribune. "I think moving forward we are going to do a better job on the front end telling people that this is in the information behind what you are seeing."

KOMU superimposed text over the footage that said it had been provided by the state government.

One viewer said officials should have used a wide-angle lens to capture more of the House.

"They were concerned that it only showed one-half of the chamber, which I kind of noticed myself from home," said Randy Reeves, KOMU's managing editor.

Republicans control the House 89-70, with four vacancies. The two parties sit on opposite sides of the chamber.

Robinson, who stood by a director and pointed out scenes to cut away to when Blunt paused for applause, defended the broadcast, saying it accurately showed what was going on during the speech.

She said the cameras were positioned to view Blunt's special guests. She said two flags in the House press gallery blocked the cameras' view of the Democrats.

"The governor's speech is the focus of the broadcast and the special guests were prominent features, and we wanted to show the special guests," Robinson said.

Governors have typically used the speech to lay out their agenda for the legislative session and to focus on their administrations' accomplishments. But Blunt has raised the event's profile, holding it during prime time instead of the traditional daytime slot when fewer people are likely watching.

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, said the Democrats applauded Blunt and his wife three or four times and joined in a standing ovation for Blunt's comments on restoring health care. LeVota said he wasn't surprised that Democrats were left out of the broadcast.

"It was kind of a campaign event, and the fact that only part of the audience was shown indicated more of that," he said. "I'm not that concerned about it. A governor can say things in an election, but people are going to base their decision on performance."


Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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