Live television serves multiple purposes from the banal to the extraordinary, it is there to showcase, to add spin to events, to showcase and create spectacle, but it’s primary goal is about bringing people together. Live breakfast TV, for example Sunrise, succeeds in doing this through a specific set of production elements employed. It constantly addresses the audience directly and as a live production is often clunky and choppy in its delivery but it is also very much aware of itself and seeks to make this explicit with the audience. It is these features that characterise live “ordinary” television (breakfast television), and their effect that I intend to analyse.
Live “ordinary” television, like breakfast television, exists to provide entertainment and information to the audience. It functions also as a way of joining public and private life, existing as a public sphere for the national community. It does this by blending the public and private sphere; bringing information concerning the wider public to you in the intimate space of your home.
Broadcast nationally on free-to-air TV 5 days a week (with Weekend Sunrise at 7am on Saturday and Sunday), it is fair to say that Sunrise Australia works hard to promote, and at the same time create a sense of national identity and values. A mix of feature news stories, entertainment, home-living and infomercial type segments Sunrise looks to provide every Australian home with something of interest in their morning routine.
As a conventional breakfast TV program, Sunrise focuses largely on presenting news and current affairs to the viewer in a way that is not overly serious; something that you can wake up and get ready whilst having the TV on perhaps in the background. It seeks to become a part of your daily routine, the personalities look to be friends with you, to take part in your morning ritual inside the personal space of the home with the viewer. I will be analysing the clip screened in the lecture from Sunrise on Friday July 30th 2010.
The opening segment follows many of the standard conventions of post-broadcast live television; predominantly, it is self-aware that it is a television show and is more than willing to share this awareness with the audience at any given moment. The first shot of the studio is a wide shot from a camera crane, it shows a large amount of the studio, including other cameras and crew – a distinct reference to the act of watching tv and making tv. Furthermore the program contains multiple time markers, from the time displayed at the bottom right of the screen along with rolling news headlines and weather updates, to the announcement of the date by the presenters at the beginning of the show. These markers create a sense of immediacy and amplify the to-the-minute nature of the program.
Live television can often feel clunky, and taken out of context this segment of Sunrise definitely does. The unscripted casual banter back and forth between presenters often gives rise to a choppy, unnatural pattern of shot changes that are not rhythmic. At times, the speaker is not even shown which feels even more disruptive and unnatural. However the tone and overall mood of the program is not largely affected by this as it relies partly on the casual remarks and rapport building between presenters to in turn build rapport with the audience.
Sunrise seeks very much to include it’s audience, a common feature of post-broadcast television, it does this multiple ways. A characteristic of live television, it addresses the audience directly, greeting them at the beginning of the show and involving them through direct interrogatives throughout the broadcast. Allowed into the home, and into the intimate space of morning ritual, this is an important feature of how the show seeks to be understood by the audience. By constantly directly referring to them “…don’t you think?” or even“…we’ll be right back, don’t go anywhere” a sense of inclusion is created, and a something more than a one-way relationship begins to be built. The dress of the presenters, and overall look of the show is more relaxed, more casual then the nightly news program, or any live daytime TV. With this Sunrise seeks to level the field between the presenters and the viewer, to create something immediate and personal for the viewer. The hierarchical structure common to news programs is not so present here, the lesser featured presenters often chatting with the main presenters before and/or after their segments. The dress and hairstyles does not promote the power dynamic that sits with the nightly news anchor, instead the presenters are dressed in a more relaxed outfit, something you can feel comfortable with in your pre-caffeinated morning state.
Live Television is all about being in the moment, and rolling with whatever happens. Of course, it can all go horribly wrong (see link), but that in itself is entertaining for the audience. We don’t watch Sunrise for the spectacle of success or failure as we would with live event television, however when things do go wrong it is quickly to picked up on and the way the presenters handle it in the moment in turn builds rapport with the audience.