Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, seems like the perfect place to celebrate the Fourth of July. (It is a spectacularly patriotic backdrop, after all.) But this year on America’s birthday, D.C.’s rainy weather and cloudy sky made it a less-than-ideal locale for fireworks. That’s why PBS decided to make an alteration to its annual “live” coverage of the Capitol’s fireworks display. Instead of streaming just the cloudy fireworks show happening outside, PBS added in fireworks footage from previous years to enhance TV viewers' experience. While it was well-intentioned, a lot of people were not happy about the compilation. In response to accusations that PBS was trying to dupe its viewers, the program sent out a few tweets of explanation.
We showed a combination of the best fireworks from this year and previous years. It was the patriotic thing to do. #July4thPBS— A Capitol Fourth (@July4thPBS) July 5, 2016
We're not sure we would equate editing a live fireworks show with patriotism, but we certainly don't think the action warranted this level of crazy backlash all over Twitter.
To me, it seems like people were overreacting — and I’m not just saying that because I’m such a huge fan of PBS (though I do love me some Great British Bake Off). If you're watching a fireworks show on television instead of enjoying it in the cloudy, rainy conditions outside, chances are you want to see fireworks, minus the clouds and smoke. And that's exactly what PBS gave viewers. Does it matter whether it happens in real time or not? On the other hand, there is an implicit understanding that when you're watching "live" TV, you're viewing what's actually happening right then — whether it's exciting, cloudy, or not. Maybe PBS should have simply removed the word "live" from its broadcast. That certainly would have avoided a whole lot of drama — and angry viewers.