On Sun, Mar 11, 2018 at 12:35 AM, Steve Timko <steveti...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Part of the problem with going to encrypted frequencies is that other
> emergency providers can't monitor the frequency, or can't do it without the
> expense and hassle and getting encrypted radios. Firefighters and
> ambulances monitor police frequencies, for instance.
> Many frequencies are public. You can check it out at
> https://www.broadcastify.com and listen in on some frequencies.

Reading up on this a little more, it sounds like there are a variety of
digital systems, and it's basically a question of cost and roll-out. In the
UK and many places beyond, most emergency services use TETRA services which
I believe are encrypted by default. Other places, including the US are
transitioning to something called Project 25 (APCO-25). It seems that
Project 25 users can choose whether or not to use encryption.

When I was a child I could hear police radio at the upper end of my FM
radio dial! (Commercial radio had yet to be licenced those frequencies),
and scanners in the UK could hear other broadcasts on UHF frequencies. But
TETRA, which is now quite old technology, brought an end to that. Also
systems tend to be bought in bulk across all emergency services. I imagine
that it's a lot more complicated when you have dozens of individual
agencies all choosing their own kit, and then need them to be able to
cross-communicate. (For better or worse, UK ambulances are now
transitioning to a 4G system, so as with mobile phones, they'll remain
completely encrypted).

> There are stringers in just about every market, but I'm not sure how many
> have full-blown companies.  Later on in "Shot in the Dark" they go to the
> funeral of a stringer in Santa Barbara, which is a tiny market.  Just a
> stringer, not a full blown company.

"Stringers" has always been a journalistic term to mean freelancers who
might have loose affiliations with news providers. I think the idea that
they're just gung-ho video self-ops racing around the streets of cities is
only one very small part of the equation. In many parts of the world
they're local journalists who might support their incomes by providing copy
to international agencies. There tend to be specialist news agencies that
deal in certain types of thing too. Paparazzi photographers, for example,
tend to work for agencies who specialise in those kinds of photos. They'd
be stringers too.

I suppose I was surprised that in a news market as big as LA, with
seemingly a decent number of local news shows to target, the stations
themselves don't have bigger operations and just shoot some of this
themselves. Or has it reached the point where they only have a couple of
news trucks that mostly cover daylight stuff, and they just find it cheaper
to buy in footage from these companies even though it'll be identical to
footage their competitors have? That said, it does seem that stations can
keep helicopters on standby, suggesting that if a "real" story emerges,
they can be there.

I live in London, and there are only really two outlets for local TV news -
BBC London and ITV London. I'm not aware that either uses much external
footage beyond mobile phone footage. But then, you can't sit listening to
police scanners all night and then race to the scene. You have to rely on
the police or the public telling you!

I should say that there are plenty of UK tabloid TV shows that show police
chases and follow the services to the scenes of accidents, but they're all
in the documentary genre because footage is only released later. Sometimes
this is because of UK laws on what you can show (suspects need to be
prosecuted before you can see them unblurred), but mainly because of the
time delay. Footage from police dashcams and helicopters won't be released
by police unless they choose to at their preferred time. The only
exceptions might be live situations where they're seeking public help in
finding something.

> Thank you for agreeing with me about the ending.

 Finally - about that ending. I have quite mixed - and conflicting - views.
I suppose they were summed up in a later episode when another of guys sits
and points his camera at a car broken down in the fast line, and just
waits. He doesn't want to see anyone die, but he does want to get some kind
of a crash. But a crash might cause someone to die. He says he's not
leaving his lights flashing because it might distract drivers from the real
issue in the fast lane. I appreciate all of that, and yet it does feel like
someone pointing a camera at some ice somewhere and just filming people
falling over.  Is there really nothing he could do? Maybe carry some kind
of flashing warning lights or signs? These guys are often parked up near
emergency situations, and I assume they don't want to be rear-ended by
other drivers. Yes, the British guy in episode one was heroic, pulling the
driver out without too much care for his own safety.

I don't have any easy answers, but I found both sequences unsettling for
similar reasons.


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