TV quick to veto footage of shooting
Cameras captured moment of impact

"We don't put that stuff on television'

Aug. 27, 2004. 01:00 AM


CBC-TV may wind up implementing delays in live newscasts after its cameras captured, though didn't air, the fatal shooting of Sugston Anthony (Tony) Brookes by a police sharpshooter.


As soon as the drama began to unfold Wednesday morning, the station sent a reporter and camera operator to the scene from its headquarters several blocks away. They returned with clear, close footage, captured through a window from inside the Fairmont Royal York hotel.


"The camera was on when the bullet hit his head," said Mark Bulgutch, senior executive producer of news programming.


"It was horrible. It was horrifying. We don't put that kind of stuff on television."


But that's exactly what would have happened if the hostage-taking had taken a bit longer to reach its conclusion.


"Another 20 minutes and we'd have been able to park a (satellite) truck where we wanted to, and we would've been on live. There's no doubt about it," said Bulgutch.


"Normally, we put a lot of live television on, but obviously nothing's going to happen at a press conference of the Prime Minister.


"Most of the stuff coming in is pretty tame, so the issue of a delay has not come up. But I've certainly started thinking about it since yesterday (Wednesday), and we're talking about it still."


Meanwhile, just 10 weeks into his job as 6 p.m. producer at CityPulse, Derek Miller had the final say there.


During the unfolding drama, the station had three camera operators on the ground and a live feed from its permanent camera atop Union Station.


However, just before the shot was fired, someone adjusted the angle of the Union Station camera, which had been trained on the gunman and shown sporadically on CP24, said Miller.


But one of the three other cameras did capture the shooting.


"We had a clear shot, but we knew as soon as we saw it that no way was it going to run on our newscast.


"My impulse was, I can't think of a situation where the top of a six o'clock newscast in a major centre would show somebody getting killed.


"We saw blood spray ... it's a sickening thing to see somebody hit the ground when you know that they are dead.


"That was my personal reaction and the reaction of the people in the room, and I don't think we're typical viewers in any way, but if we react emotionally and immediately to something like that, we know that viewers would react even stronger than that.


"We didn't have to have a discussion. We all immediately said no."


Miller said they would have considered running the moment of impact "if it was a wide shot that was perhaps partially obscured, where we saw just gun smoke."


Instead, they froze the video just before the fatal shot and kept the audio of the shot ringing out. "I think it made the point without being gory and without being sensationalist, which TV news can be criticized for a lot," he said.


"And we certainly don't want to play that game. We live here too and we care about what people think about us. It's easy to avoid being sensationalist if we look at things as a viewer."


Additional articles by Ashante Infantry