By Darra Loganzo
A family with children of all ages is gathered around the television watching a sporting event. On Sunday during Duke v. Louisville game, it was completely unpredicted when Kevin Ware jumped in the air landed on the ground with a compound fracture of both his tibula and fibula. The actual injury lasts about 2 seconds, but how do television company broadcasters handle showing what is perhaps the most gruesome injury in the history of televised sports without any warning to the completely unexpecting audience? Do Sports Channels have the ability to censor what they deem ‘inappropriate’ for the public, and how “gross” is too “gross?”
After the injury, CBS spent a measely 45 seconds to keep the cameras off them and quickly confer and discuss the degree of just how bad the injury was. During those 45 seconds the cameramen viewed the replays, realized how graphic they were, decided whether to show the play again, and decidde how many times, and from what angle.
CBS decided that it would be deemed acceptable if they only showed the play twice. Once, from the far end of the court, and then from the same angle as the original broadcast. And that’s all. “We did not zoom in on the injury when he was taken off. I think we did the right thing,” said CBS Sports head Sean McManus.
But the problem lies in the fact that in this day and age, mass media allowed for videos the injury to be all over the internet and Youtube only minutes after it occured. The decision on how to handle gruesome injuries in a broadcast is a tricky matter of negotiating that Goldilocks zone between being exploitative and being uninformative. While there are no guidelines, a rough consensus seems to have emerged.
“You have to use great judgment about what your audience can stomach and what they must see. Actually, maybe more importantly, what they must not see.”
CBS made the decision for us on what they deemed acceptable to be shown on live TV. I agree with their decision that a limited time showing the graphic images on-air with no warning where young children could be watching was a good decision. Then, if people were curious to see other cameramen’s videos of the injury from other shots, it is up to the viewer’s discretion to go on the internet on their own time and make the decision for themself, after seeing the multiple warnings of “Gross images,” “Graphic Video, “Viewer discretion advised.” This way, people are expecting to see it and can brace themselves. We live in the United States of America: freedom of the press reigns above all. There are many people who believe strongly that no images or video should ever be banned from the public; if a company or the government is hiding something from us, our rights are being broken. However, the difficulty lies on the thin line between flashing the images across your flat-screen television in broad daylight without your decision first that you want to see it, or later logging onto google and within seconds having the injury able to be viewed at the tip of your fingers after googling it.
When I first saw the video on Youtube only 10 minutes after being broadcasted on CBS, it was after seeing dozens of tweets about the intensity level, and voluntarily making the decision to watch it, despite how disgusting it was. When making decisions on censorship and live television, I definitely believe that the producers should take the time to take into consideration their audience’s reactions and try their best to make sure it does not offend or disturb anyone as best as possible.