Broadcasting live TV requires microwaves, trucks, heavy cables, metal towers and even satellites in the exosphere. But the other day I transmitted live the July 4th fireworks from my phone without major trauma (except the pulse because I improvised and did not bring tripod). You still need towers and satellites, but it is the “last mile” or “last kilometer” which changes for the user. Yours is the connected phone and the rest, frankly, lays down on Facebook because it’s their Live service.

Facebook Live is pretty close to how an application of this type should work: a couple of clicks and you’re on. The rest depends on the broadcaster.

FaceTime, Google Hangout and other live systems transmission has been around but as usual, the “fever” or peaks in the use of a product category usually happen when a product “breaks the cellophane” in the worldwide attention.


As easily as I had to broadcast a harmless fireworks, Diamond Reynolds (girlfriend of Phillando Castile’s, an African American killed by a policeman in Minnesota on Jul/06/2016), reported a real gunfire. The difference of situation could not be bigger, but the tool of transmission was the same. Miami’s Nuevo Herald said about Castile: “He died after receiving four shots from the hands of a police officer, and his last moments of life were transmitted by his girlfriend in a Facebook Live video.”

Then the video was broadcasted live by Reynolds and like all Facebook Live streams, remained on her wall. The video contains strong images and discretion is advised.

Just a week later there was another high-profile case. Three men in Virginia were massacred while reporting live on Facebook. Their video had nothing to do with the killing, which took them by surprise and was attributed to gang warfare. The three men were killed at minute 0:44 of the video below.

In Nice, France, the terrorist attack of July 14th  was so quick and unexpected that there was no time for anyone to capture it live (and maybe it was better that way, given how awful it was). But there was a remarkable use of live video the next day, during the attempted coup in Turkey.

During the confusing night following the putsch, the rebel army took the main institutions, including television stations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in hiding and needed to deliver a message to the country. The Daily Mail says that Erdogan:

Isolated inside the holiday resort, Erdogan made an inspired decision, which in all likelihood saved his presidency and showed the major flaw in the rebels’ plans.

With the state media service occupied, Erdogan called a private TV station [CNN Turkey] on his iPhone. He needed to show the 80-million population he was still a freeman and needed to play his major gamble.

A journalist held in his hand a phone that receives the transmission and a camera launched the feed. Erdogan used Apple Face Time.

Positive, Negative

What implications -beyond sharing with friends or followers- poses the ability to broadcast live from a mobile device? How important for journalism and user-generated content?

As a citizen it gives you more power, more autonomy for reporting news events. A video can provide a powerful forensic evidence, incontrovertible proof in court (versus the contrast between witness testimonies). That is a live transmission draws more attention than a mere post-event publication, not only for friends and followers, but for journalists and infocitizens worldwide.

Well, more power to inform direct and instantaneously, without inter mediation. Journalists win because they have thousands of “correspondents” ad honorem that can pick up an exclusive just because they are there. While certainly most “streams” will be birthdays or sports competitions, more than once who transmits will give a breaking news.

There are, as always, negative consequences such as invasion of privacy. From hidden shots in a nudist beach to a wedding that wanted to perform in the strictest privacy, certainly a video is intrusive in the lives of those who want to preserve their privacy. Get ready for paparazzis in real time.

Another risk is the simulation of facts. Someone may stage an action and pass it off as a spontaneous event for a joke or a political purpose with controversial or social anxiety effects.

Also the transmission timeliness can help misrepresenting information. For example, A hits B; B responds but someone transmit since the point where B hitted A. In the light of superficial judgment, B is the provocateur.

This is just beginning. Undoubtedly the power game regarding media has changed forever.

-Fernando Nunez-Noda

Published in Neorika, 17/Juy/2016.
Image: Neorika.