Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The X Files

CNN has reportedly launched an internal inquiry into how a flashing "X" appeared over Vice President Cheney's face during a televised speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Monday. The X appeared only on CNN, and clearly originated in the network's control room

Drudge has been on this story from the start. According to his latest dispatch, CNN is blaming the problem on a computer bug that the network has been unable to replicate.

Was it a technical glitch? Michelle Malkin has a lengthy e-mail from a TV director in Los Angeles who seems convinced that it was unintentional. Others have their doubts.

Years ago, The Former Spook was a media type, and I've spent a little time in front of a switcher, the device that allows a TV station or network to decide what goes out over the air, and a character generator, which inserts graphics and text onto the screen. But the character generators and switchers I worked on are crude by today's computerized models. Based on my own, limited experiences, I can't say whether the "X" was a glitch, or deliberate.

However, there is another way to get to the bottom of this. Someone needs to ask CNN what type of switcher and character generators were in use at the time of the incident, then ask the engineers at those firms to replicate the "X" (if possible). I'm sure the technical experts at Chyron (the leading producer of character generators), and Grass Valley, the industry leader in switching technology, would be happy to conduct the experiment. And, while CNN sorts through this problem, perhaps they'd like to hear a sales pitch for this Grass Valley system, which is designed to reduce technical errors.

If I were a Grass Valley sales rep, I'd give Jon Klein a call.


During CNN"s 11:00 am EST hour, the network offered a more detailed explanation of the glitch, with anchor Daryn Kagan quizzing a CNN technical manager in the network's Atlanta control room. He likened the problem to a computer lock-up that could be resolved only through rebooting the system. He said that CNN will reboot the switcher periodically, to prevent the glitch from happening again.

I would still prefer an independent analysis and explanation from the switcher manufacturer. While CNN's explanation is plausible, it should also be noted that today's broadcast switchers are extremely reliable, and I'm not aware of similar problems at other networks or stations using the same equipment. Given that reality--and the obvious hostility of the MSM towards the Bush Administration--CNN would be well-served to seek an outside opinion.

1 comment:

Wanderlust said...

Perhaps someone should remind CNN of its 2004 election website hijinks regarding naming conventions for photos of GWB ("asshole.jpg" and "moron.jpg")...?

Not to mention that their political analyst William Schneider generally acts like a bragging kid whenever he gets a chance to pontificate on W's alleged failures...