A few weeks ago I wrote about the relocation of the Canadian Global National newscast to a “virtual” studio in Ottawa. One interesting question being, what’s the point of moving your news anchor to the nation’s capital, when all that indicates that Kevin Newman is in Ottawa is a computer-controlled image of the Canadian Parliament behind him?
I’m very interested in the architecture of television news, because it crosses into all kinds of interesting fields of study to do with architecture and the projection of power, security and knowledge. It’s also one of the most readily accessible situations in which virtual architecture finds environment in which it is ready to demonstrate its potential.
The “virtual” treatment of the Ottawa studio has now been applied to the Global Television affiliate CKMI-TV in Montréal. Even when I lived in Montréal I didn’t watch CKMI much, mainly because TV didn’t play much part in my life, but also because the channel’s principal evening news bulletins were broadcast too early in the evening for me to watch. The concept of a 17h00, 17h30 or even 18h00 English language news bulletin in Montréal being to catch the captive audience of anglo housewives waiting for their partners to come home. From that any Montrealer or Montréalais(e) reader will know exactly what sort of political leaning Global Québec takes.
Here’s a shot of Global Québec anchor Jamie Orchard opening an edition of the evening news. See that bustling newsroom behind her? Yep. It’s a hive of activity down there at Global Québec. Or so you might imagine. The physical set isn’t the only thing that has been put out to pasture. A number of control-room and on-screen staff have been laid off as well, victims not only of a remotely controlled programme (the news studio is now controlled from Vancouver) but also of the cancellation of This Morning Live, CKMI’s breakfast programming. The creation of a virtual newsroom doesn’t just dispense with the need to have that buzzing newsroom behind the anchor, it also dispenses with the need to have people working in every regional news studio controlling the cameras and cue-ing up reports.
If there is one good point to note about the application of this virtual studio, it’s that so far the design has been better applied in Montréal than in Ottawa. This opening pan shot, looking down on the anchor and the desk (the only real things in the entire shot) works better than the acuter angle of the opening shot on Ottawa: the perspective is, at least, more believable. That said, I imagine there have been a few instances in which Jamie Orchard has or will be tempted out from behind her desk to stand in front of another hideously mis-proportioned long shot of the non-existent studio.
I can’t claim to be close to any informed sources in the Canadian media industry, but Global has no made no bones in announcing that Global Edmonton, Global Calgary and Global Toronto will be the next affiliates to welcome virtual newsrooms. And that means control-room staff there might do well to start refreshing their resumés.