- "Live TV" redirects here. For the British TV
station formerly known by this name, see L!VE
refers to television
broadcast in real time. Today it is
used mostly for programs such as Today
, CBS This Morning
, and local television
news. However, from the early days of television until about 1958,
it was used heavily, except for filmed shows such as I Love Lucy
. Videotape did not exist until
In general live television was more common for broadcasting content
produced specifically for television in the early years of the
medium, before technologies such as videotape
recording appeared. As video recording
became more prevalent, many entertainment programs were recorded
and edited before broadcasting rather than being shown live.
Entertainment events such as professional sports
games and awards programs
continue to be generally
Uses of live television
Live television is today most common in television news
, where news programs are
generally broadcast live, presenting recorded and edited news
stories. Events that networks
decide most viewers will
want to or should know about as soon as possible are broadcast
live, often interrupting regularly scheduled programming, as news
bulletins, and if they are quickly changing and developing, with
coverage as they unfold as "breaking news" stories. There is
usually a 75-90 second delay between what is actually being filmed
and what is being broadcast; this is to allow time for editing and
censoring. However, some events can be delayed by up to 20 minutes
such as Barack Obama's inauguration speech, and live coverage from
the Big Brother
house in the
Live television inherently has an extemporaneous, spontaneous, and
urgent quality that often appears more suspenseful and exciting
than recorded programming even if the content itself is not. It has
this quality for many reasons: the fact that what is shown is
happening in real-time, as it unfolds; the limited amount of
control that is possible over live programming compared with
recorded programming; and the resulting potential for mishap, that
is, the idea that "anything can happen". Thus, it even extends
itself to the live presentation of scripted material.
Live television is often used as a device, even when it is not
necessary, in various types of programming to take advantage of
these qualities, often to great success in terms of attracting
viewers. The NBC
live comedy/variety program
Saturday Night Live
for example, has been on that network continuously since
On September 25, 1997, NBC broadcast a special live episode of its
hospital drama ER
, which at
the time ranked as the third most-watched episode of any drama
program ever. Many television news programs, particularly local
ones in North America, have also used live television as a device
to gain viewers by making their programs appear more exciting. With
technologies such as satellite uplinks, a reporter can report live
"on location" from anywhere where a story is happening in the city.
This technique has attracted criticism for its overuse (like minor
car accidents which often have no injuries) and resulting tendency
to make stories appear more urgent than they actually are.
The unedited nature of live television can pose problems for
networks because of the potential for mishaps. To enforce the
regulations, networks often broadcast live programs
on a slight delay
to give them the
ability to censor
words and images while
keeping the broadcast as "live" as possible.
Memorable events on live television
Many events have happened on live television broadcasts that are
well-remembered, sometimes because they were part of a major news
story already, and always because they happened unexpectedly and
before audiences of thousands or millions of viewers.
- June 2, 1953 - the coronation of Her Majesty
Elizabeth II of the
United Kingdom was the first to be televised live on British
- November 24, 1963 - Lee Harvey
Oswald (the alleged assassin of U.S. President John F. Kennedy) was shot in Dallas by nightclub owner Jack
Ruby while being transferred to a county jail. Oswald
was taken to Parkland Hospital,
the same hospital in which President Kennedy and Governor Connally
had been treated two days before, but died within approximately two
hours after being shot.
- November 25, 1963 - President John
F. Kennedy's funeral was broadcast on live TV . It was seen by
perhaps what was the largest viewing audience up to then. It was
the first live TV coverage of a Presidential funeral. Kennedy had been
assassinated in Dallas,
Texas three days before, on November 22, 1963. The
assassination initiated four days of non-stop live television news
coverage seen by millions.
- November 13, 1965 - Critic and author Kenneth Tynan became the first person to say
the word "fuck" on British television while
commenting on censorship during a live TV debate on the BBC. The
incident helped to establish Mary
Whitehouse as self-appointed guardian of television morality in
the United Kingdom, and Tynan was fired.
- December 24, 1968 - Apollo
8 Genesis reading during the 9th orbit of the moon.
- July 20, 1969 - Apollo 11 the first
moon landing by humans.
- July 15, 1974 - Christine
Chubbuck, a television news reporter for station WXLT-TV in
Sarasota, Florida, committed suicide on live television by firing a
revolver shot into her head.
- January 28, 1986 - The Challenger explosion was seen on live TV
by millions in the U.S.
- November 9, 1989 - Live coverage of the abolishment of travel
restrictions and the opening of the border to West Berlin after
mass panic and jubilation from East Germans.
- June 17, 1994 - The slow-speed
chase of a vehicle containing American football star and murder
suspect O. J. Simpson was
broadcast live throughout the U.S., with NBC interrupting its
coverage of the 1994
NBA Finals to do so.
- April 30, 1998 - Daniel V. Jones, a cancer and HIV-positive
patient apparently frustrated with his HMO coverage, ended a live
televised stand-off with police on a Los Angeles freeway by
committing suicide, shooting himself in the chin with a shotgun.
The event, which took place on a Thursday afternoon, was witnessed
by many children whose after-school cartoons had been interrupted
in order to broadcast the incident (which originally began as a
high-speed pursuit), and led many to criticize Los Angeles
television stations' practice of airing police pursuits live.
- September 11, 2001 - At 09:03am Eastern
Daylight Time, United
Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the
Center, in front of millions of viewers who were already
watching live coverage of the unfolding terrorist attacks of that
day. Major networks had broken into regular programming just
minutes earlier with live shots of the twin towers after American Airlines Flight 11
crashed into the north tower at 08:46am. Millions of viewers around
the world watching live coverage of the attacks saw both buildings
- March 23, 2003 - Sky News broadcast
live coverage of US forces attacking an Iraqi position. Sky
reporter David Bowden, embedded with the US Marines, gave a live
running commentary on the battle, something viewers had not seen
- July 7, 2005 - A live television report on the unfolding
situation on the 7 July 2005
London bombings captured the sound of the Tavistock Square bus
explosion at 09:46 British Summer Time.
- September 21, 2005 - JetBlue Airways Flight 292 made
an emergency landing in Los Angeles. The passengers were able to watch the
incident unfold on live television.
16, 2008 - Georgian president
Mikhail Saakashvili chewed a tie
during the news headlines on the BBC.
30, 2009 - During live coverage of a parade on the Dutch holiday
Koninginnedag in the city of Apeldoorn, Netherlands an attack took place on the Dutch Royal
Family after Karst R. Tates drove a car into a
crowd of people before crashing into a monument. Although the royal
family themselves were unharmed the incident resulted in a total of
8 fatalities leaving many others injured.
- July 07, 2009 - Michael Jackson's funeral was broadcast live.
It had around 200 million to 150 million viewers.
- November 30, 1958 - Midway through transmission of the
Armchair Theatre play
Underground on the British ITV network,
actor Gareth Jones died
off-camera, forcing the production to improvise for the remainder
of the telecast.
- September 17, 1967 - While The Doors
performed "Light My Fire" on
The Ed Sullivan Show,
Morrison used the word "higher" instead of the previously
agreed-upon change "better".
- March 5, 1975 - Graham Kennedy
mimicked a crow call ("faaaaaaark") remniscient of the word
fuck during a hairspray ad on The Graham Kennedy Show on the
Nine Network in Australia. He was banned from live TV indefinitely
for the stunt. He quits the network on April
17 after the network took advantage of the pre-taping to delete
a speech critical of Senator Doug
McClelland (the then Minister for the Media).
- December 1, 1976 - Appearing in a live interview on the
Thames Television pre-watershed programme Today as
last-minute replacements for fellow EMI artists Queen, the Sex Pistols were interviewed by Bill Grundy to promote their recently released
Anarchy in the UK single. During
the interview, Jones said the band had "fucking spent" its label
advance and Johnny Rotten used the word "shit." Pistols guitarist Steve
Jones called Grundy a "dirty sod" and a "dirty old man",
leading Grundy to goad the band into swearing on live TV, and Jones
ended the interview with "you dirty bastard," "you dirty fucker,"
and "what a fucking rotter". Grundy was fired by ITV and Today was
- February 20, 1981 - Appearing on the live ABC comedy show Fridays as guest host, comedian Andy Kaufman refused to read his lines during
the last sketch, to the annoyance of the cast and crew. The
situation escalated into a minor brawl, and the network cut off the
broadcast. Kaufman later admitted that the fight was planned by him
and some of the cast and crew.
- January 4, 1987 - A massive bench clearing brawl occurred in
the WJHC between Canada and the Soviet Union. After Pavel
Kostichkin took a two handed slash at Theoren Fleury, the Soviet
Union's Evgeny Davydov came off the bench, eventually leading to
both benches clearing. The officials walked off the ice and tried
shutting off the arena lights, but the brawl lasted for 20 minutes
until the IIHF
declared the game null and void. Both teams were disqualified from
the tournament and barred from attending the end-of-tournament
- October 17, 1989 - Right before Game 3 of The
1989 World Series between the
San Francisco Giants and the
Oakland Athletics, the Loma Prieta
- February 1, 2004 - During a performance by singers Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl XXXVIII
half time show, Timberlake pulled off a part of Jackson's
leather corset, revealing her right breast covered by a piece of
jewelry attached to her nipple. He later described the incident as
a "wardrobe malfunction". The
incident caused outrage among religious groups and demands for the
FCC to crack down
on indecency on television and radio.
- April 21, 2004 - After commenting on a UEFA Champions League match on
ITV1, Ron Atkinson
thought that the broadcast had finished. However, although
transmission in the UK had finished, he was still on air to various
countries in the Middle East and proceeded to say that "...he is
what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick nigger"
towards Marcel Desailly. He resigned
with immediate effect.
- April 14, 2007 - At the conclusion of an AFL match between
Fremantle and West Coast on Network Ten, Eagles player Michael Braun (in
front of a TV audience of 550,000 and a crowd of 42,051) concludes
his Ross Glenndenning Medal acceptance speech with "Let's have a
fucking good year". Braun was fined $5,500 by the AFL for the
Live television episodes
Although all programs were once live, the use of videotape means
that very few television programs in the modern era have ever
attempted such a feat. In the U.S., soap
including As the World
and The Edge of
were broadcast live until 1975
. The most recent scripted series to
do so on a regular basis was the Charles S. Dutton
in the 1992-93 season.
However, on occasion, scripted series will do an episode live to
attract ratings. In the U.S. and Canada, the episode is
occasionally performed twice: once for the east coast (Eastern
and Central time
) and again three hours later for the west coast (Mountain
time zones). Notable examples of
shows that have had a live episode include:
In recent years there have been a number of special films broadcast
live as well. These include the remakes of Fail Safe
A live television advertisement was shown for the first time in 40
years to celebrate the arrival of the new Honda Accord in the
United Kingdom. It was broadcast on Channel Four on 29 May 2008 at
20:10 during a special episode of 'Come Dine With Me'.
Live television specials
Many live television specials were telecast during the
pre-videotape era. Among the most successful were the 1955 and 1956
telecasts of Peter Pan
a 1954 musical adaptation of J.M.
's 1904 play, starring Mary Martin
, and Cyril
. This was such a hit that the show was restaged and
rebroadcast (this time on videotape) with the same two stars and
most of the rest of the cast in 1960, and rerun several times after
that. The Peter Pan
telecasts marked the first-ever
telecasts of a complete Broadway musical with most of its original
- No Retakes, by Sandra Grabman and Wright King.
BearManor Media, 2008.
- Caesar's Hours: My Life in Comedy, with Love and
Laughter, by Sid Caesar with Eddy Friedfeld. Public Affairs,
- The Box: An Oral History of Television 1920-1961, by
Jeff Kisseloff. Penguin Books, 1995.
- The Live Television Generation of Hollywood Film
Directors, by Gorham Kindem. McFarland, 1994.
- Live Television: The Golden Age of 1946-1958 in New
York, by Frank Sturcken. McFarland, 1990.
- Golden Age of Television: Notes from the Survivors, by
Max Wilk. Moyer Bell Limited, 1989.
- Where Have I Been? An Autobiography, by Sid
Caesar with Bill Davidson, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1982.