Washington: Fox News broadcast live a fleeing carjacking suspect committing suicide in the Arizona desert, prompting many people on social media to react to the real-time broadcasting blunder.
“We really messed up and we’re all very sorry,” said Shepard Smith, a senior Fox News anchorman.
He said a five-second delay in the live feed ought to have enabled the graphic scene to be stopped before going on air.
“That didn’t belong on TV,” AFP quoted him as saying. “We took every precaution we knew how to take to keep that from being on TV. And I personally apologise to you that that happened… That won’t happen again on my watch.”
But despite the Fox apology Twitter users proclaimed that Fox News, part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, had telecast a “suicide” as it happened.
“He’s looking kind of erratic, isn’t he?… It’s always possible the guy could be on something,” said Smith in a running commentary, unaware of what was about to happen.
Turning into some bushes, the suspect then pulled out a handgun, put it to his right temple and collapsed.
On air, Smith shouted “get off it! get off it!” in a plea to his studio colleagues to halt the live feed.
In the hours that followed, YouTube scrambled to delete the video almost as quickly as its users were posting it, saying it violated its terms of service.
“There is simply no excuse for this. It is sensationalism to carry it in the first place,” said Al Tompkins of the Florida-based Poynter Institute.
“Whatever local reasons there might be to carry it do not apply to a national audience,” Tompkins said on the school’s website.
“And yet this happens time and again and has for more than a decade and a half,” he said. “Each time, TV stations apologise while enjoying a temporary ratings bump.”
Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik commented: “I am not sure there is an explanation for this kind of gatekeeping ineptitude.”