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THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Keeping their eyes off the ball


Al Gilkes

THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Keeping their eyes off the ball

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DID YOU SEE the live coverage that our own CBC TV 8 almost brought its devoted customers of last week’s dramatic, nail-biting, heart-stopping, tear-jerking rescue of those 33 Chilean miners who had been buried for 70 days half-mile down in the bowels of the earth?
That event, for which the world virtually stood still the best part of 24 hours, is now being ranked among the most gripping media-covered events of modern times, right up there with the 9/11 attack, the invasion of Iraq and Barack Obama being elected president of the United States.
Television stations around the world devoted hours of non-stop live air time to the rescue while newspapers thousands of miles away from Peru made it their front-page story.
It is estimated that more than one billion people watched the first miner emerge from the ground.
Three major American cable news networks, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN cut into their Tuesday prime-time shows to carry round-the-clock coverage of the rescue. International networks like the BBC, CNN International and Al Jazeera English also broadcast live for hours at a time.
When television stations were not broadcasting live coverage from the mine, many, like Sweden’s SVT, the BBC and others, were providing a continuous live stream on their websites.
CNN.com delivered 4.6 million live video streams on Wednesday, its highest day this year, and received 82.5 million page views, 52 per cent more than the prior four-week average.
I was among those billion people who watched CNN and other networks with bated breath as the first miner emerged, then the second and so on until the sun emerged on Wednesday. After some meetings during the morning, I rushed to the office, switched on my Channel 8 only TV to catch up with the drama, but guess who emerged on my screen? My good friend Chef Edey.
And as the time went by the likes of Sesame Street emerged, Days Of Our Lives and the lottery draws emerged, but not an inch of footage on a miner in Chile. I consoled myself with the assumption that the first item of news at 7 p.m. would be about those miners emerging from the earth. But guess what? The QEH emerged, Haynesley Benn emerged, Dr Estwick emerged, housing emerged, sports emerged, the weather person emerged but not a single Chilean miner.
It was not until the international news started towards the end of the hour that CBC TV8 finally crossed over to CNN for a live report on the rescue drama in Chile, but did so when the reporter was discussing new legislation being drafted to address the problem of safety in mines.
Then as the cameras zoomed in on family members being escorted to the area where their long lost relative was seconds away from emerging, guess what my CBC TV8 television set did to me. It cut from CNN to the Pine where the newsreader informed me that they would continue to broadcast updates of the drama throughout the night.
Heaven help us all!
• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.

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