Why stop at TV screening of the Pistorious trial?

Worried that you may not be able to get enough coverage of the Oscar Pistorius trial via normal news media both online and off? After all, they completely failed to explore every salacious detail of the celebrity scandal during the initial hearings last year, didn’t they? Fear not, for off the back of last month’s announcement that Multichoice plans to run a special Oscar Pistorious Trial Channel during the proceedings, the broadcaster has teamed up with radio news giant EWN to apply for permission to scatter high-definition cameras with ‘revolutionary technology’ for remote control around the courtroom.

Representatives from EWN and The Oscar Pretorius Trial Channel will appear in front of the Pretoria High Court today to argue their case that they should be allowed to broadcast proceedings live, pending the agreement of individual witnesses under cross-examination. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has already agreed to the proposal, but the defence team is objecting.

In a press statement, the broadcasters say that their argument will be based on “freedom of expression and the public’s right to obtain accurate information about the trial as it unfolds.” Because neither of these two noble news institutions would ever knowingly spread misinformation about the case, would they?

Oh, wait.

But why stop at merely streaming video? Why not go the whole hog and put a Pisto-app on your iPhone? Perhaps that revolutionary camera tech could be used to switch between views as you wish: flick between Teary Family Cam and Unmoved Cold Blooded Killer Cam as the drama of the trial unfolds. That’s what’s really important, allowing us to identify with one side or the other in the emotional unravelling of this horrible whodunnit. Justice for one more dead South African is a merely a by-product.

Yes, I appreciate the irony in feeling that the whole thing undermines the dignity of a media circus by writing more column inches about it, but I feel quite strongly on this one.

As one caller to 702’s John Robbie talk show pointed out this morning, however, this may well be a case of what interests the public rather than what’s in the public’s interest. The caller, who claimed to be a former prosecutor, pointed out that the public interest is in justice being served: broadcasting witnesses being cross-examined can influence the testimony of later witnesses in a trial, thus prejudicing the outcome.

The High Court will consider its decision today. The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius begins on 3rd March.

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