ESPN is continuing their experimentation this year of having announcers broadcast college basketball games from the studio. So far, it hasn’t been met with great reviews from fans. The network did it once again this week, and for a fairly high profile affair – #18 Oklahoma at #16 West Virginia, shown live on ESPNEWS.
In discussing the remote telecast, Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette raises an interesting point. Should ESPN inform viewers when their announcers are off-site in the interest of full disclosure and transparency?
A network spokesperson Wednesday said ESPN does not see a need to remind viewers of the unorthodox arrangement during the broadcasts. “We have effectively utilized our Bristol-based facilities previously for several sports and found it to be a virtually seamless experience for viewers. Therefore, we haven’t really seen the need to mention it during the telecasts.”
Timothy Hudson, a communication professor at Point Park University, said remote broadcasts could raise ethical concerns depending on the network’s transparency. If the broadcast team neglects to disclose its location, for instance, it could be read as “deceptive by omission.”
Though the broadcasters didn’t make it apparent that they were broadcasting from a studio in Connecticut, not courtside, they didn’t try to trick the audience, either — moves Hudson called “overtly deceptive,” like using a green screen or other television magic — to pretend they were elsewhere.
It’s a very interesting question. ESPN has been taking the same approach in these college basketball telecasts that they have for soccer and other sports called from the studio. They won’t explicitly say they’re in Bristol, but they aren’t tricking audiences either. There’s just no mention of it. Well-trained listeners might be able to hear the difference, but I wonder if casual fans notice as much as those of us media observers would think. I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong answer here, but if the in-studio games are noticeably lower quality productions than having the announcers on-site, it’s something ESPN might want to address.