Walk-ons On Television News Programs

Here is the first bit:

(New York Daily News)  F-word costs TV guy a job.  By Tracy Connor.  May 20, 2005.

TV reporter Arthur Chi'en was canned by WCBS/Ch. 2 yesterday after he shouted the F-word at two meddlers who horned in on his live shot.

Chi'en was in the middle of a 6a.m. broadcast about MetroCard scammers when two men sneaked up behind him with a sign promoting radio shock jocks Opie & Anthony.  For a few moments, as the knuckleheads heckled him and gave the finger to the camera, Chi'en kept his cool and continued talking.  But as soon as he finished his report, he spun around and shouted at the intruders: "What the f--- is your problem, man?"

If he thought the WCBS control room had already cut to tape, he was wrong. The expletive went out over the air.  "Sorry about that distraction before," Chi'en said when he returned.  The apology apparently wasn't enough for WCBS, especially when the Federal Communications Commission is cracking down on obscenity.  "He's been terminated," station spokeswoman Audrey Pass said.  Chi'en, a former New York 1 reporter who joined WCBS in 2003, told the Daily News he's sorry.  "I regret the entire thing and I apologize to those who were offended," he said.

Do you suppose that was the whole story?  By now, you should know that there may be something more.  Here is the second bit:

(FMQB)  WCBS-TV Reporter Fired For Live, On-Air F-Bomb After O&A Stunt.  May 20, 2005.

Chi'en was reporting live yesterday morning (5/19) from the entrance of a NYC subway, giving details about a MetroCard scam, when O&A crony Nathaniel slipped behind Chi'en with a very large O&A sign, shouting, "XM Satellite Radio." Chi'en, who appeared to think his report had cut away to previously filmed footage, quickly turned around and yelled "What the f*ck is your problem, man?!," at the departing Nathaniel. The entire outburst aired live.

While other media outlets reporting on this incident state there were two O&A supporters heckling Chi'en, in reality, Nathaniel was acting alone. While he was holding the sign up, another person can be seen walking by and seems to help Nathaniel hold up the O&A sign. A closer examination of the footage shows the second would-be-heckler placing his middle finger up to the sign in effigy of O&A, then whispering something into Nathaniel's ear. The person? Embattled WXRK/New York deejay Crazy Cabbie who happened upon the scene by chance and decided to show his disdain for the XM personalities. Cabbie is also a sometime guest on The Howard Stern Show, which has had past issues with the XM duo.

Now do you think that you got the whole story?  Maybe, or maybe not.  

You can check out the televised segment (in wmv format) yourself.  For example, the New York Daily News reported that as soon as he finished his report, he spun around and shouted at the intruders: "What the f--- is your problem, man?" whereas FMQB reported that Chi'en, who appeared to think his report had cut away to previously filmed footage, quickly turned around and yelled "What the f*ck is your problem, man?!," at the departing Nathaniel.  There is a difference because the first reflects lack of self-control while the second is a sincere mistake.  From the segment, it seemed that the comment came out so rapidly that there couldn't be time for Chi'en to be told that he had gone off the air.

The United States is a strange country.  A man loses his job for using the F-word once on a local broadcast television news program at 6am in the morning when nobody is watching.  Maybe you get mad at him, so you switch onto HBO on cable television, and there are stand-up comedy shows which are nothing but a constant stream of obscenities (mostly, the F-word).  More than seventy percent of the households in the nation have cable access, so who are we trying to protect here?  And then there is the mother lode of obscenities in the White House tapes of President Richard Nixon, who was twice elected as the nation's leader.  Why do they pretend that the F-word does not exist in daily life?

The preceding was a case in which a television news reporter lost his composure in the midst of a live broadcast.  More generically, what is the propriety for someone to raise placards or make gestures behind reporters?  Well, the reporter is standing in public space which is shared with others.  It should be that simple.  If this was a movie set in which the production company had previously filed for a filming permit from the local government, then the public space is temporarily designated as private space and the police can enforce that requirement by arresting the violators.

There is an interesting story in the September 30, 2004 issue of Phoenix Weekly:

[in translation]  Television viewers in Taiwan have often seen a man emerging behind television hosts and reporters to steal the show.  He is a well-known character in the streets of Taiwan.

"Protest against unfair rendering of justice!  Protest against unfair rendering of justice!"  A slightly husky male voice was shouting from behind a television news reporter during a live broadcast.  The reporter shifted his position slightly while trying to look calm and continue his report.  But the man persisted in shouting the slogans, and he raised two placards of comments with his hands while sticking like glue to the reporter's back.  Certainly, by this time, the man has attracted more attention than the reporter on the television screen.  In Taiwan, if you describe what this man was doing to any person in the street, you will be told without a thought that the man's name is Ke Cihai (柯賜海).

"Oh, it is him again!  Ke Cihai is here again!"  All news reporters in Taipei, especially those covering politics and law, will run into thise person quite often when they broadcast live.  If there is a live broadcast, then he is likely to be there.  It does not matter if you speak nicely or roughly with him and it does not matter if you talk to him yourself or as a group, you cannot convince him not to stand behind your back and raise his placards.  As soon as the red light on the camera comes on, Ke Cihai will be right there with his placards.


In front of the camera, Ke Cihai looks crazy.  When you chat with him out of the camera, he is actually quite rational and can quote some philosophical sayings.  But if you try to stop him from raising the placards at a live broadcast, he is going to roar and scream.  After a while, the reporters have reached an accommodation with him.  As long as he raised his placards and don't scream at the microphones, the reporters will tolerate him.  Reporters in Taiwan are used to him by now, but foreign reporters will get culture shock.  Some time ago, there was an election in Taiwan. As usual, Ke Cihai was at every event.  No matter which television company, whether it can be seen inside Taiwan or not, he did his same placard-waving act and nearly got into blows with some foreign reporters.

After the 320 incident, Ke Cihai went to join the pan-blue demonstrators at Ketagalan Boulevard.  He raised his standard "Protest against unfair rendering of justice!" but he added "Ah-bian's bullets can bend around a corner!"  He also declared that he will offer 100 million NT dollars for any witness who comes forth with the truth about the shooting of Chen Shui-bian.  From that time, the perception of Ke Cihai by the outside world began to change.  Suddenly, he has an righteous image that represented the voice of the small citizens, and people began to ask for his autograph more often.  Some people openly admit that they used to think Ke Cihai was crazy, but now they think that he is a brave righteous man.  Some people even approached him to tell him about their problems, and asked him to list their issues on his placards.

The Ke Cihai phenomenon has been discussed extensively in Taiwan society.  As he became better known, he seems to have modified his method.  Previously, he behaved as if he was ready to risk his life each time.  Today, he is more laid back and he is occasionally willing to share his trade secrets.  Students have invited him to speak on campus.  He has been able to use this unique approach to gain fame, and he is comfortable in working within these rules of the game.  Many are still critical of his approach, and there are others who think that his extra-legal approach to voicing complaints should not be encouraged.  Yet, the fact is that Ke Cihai is a famous protestor in Taiwan society.

While he still wears the same white shirt, he still raises the protest placards and he still runs around the streets with the reporters, Ke Cihai has been passing out business cards recently.  According to Ke Cihai, he is going to run in the legislature campaign.

So here is a photo of a celebrity interview during which Ke Cihai raised a placard: "Protest: Prison food is like food for pigs."

You want more?  Here is Ke Cihai at CKS Airport ready to welcome James Soong back from his China trip on May 13, 2005.  As soon as he arrived, he was immediately invited down to the police station for a cup of tea.

              Ke Cihai seeing James Soong off and then welcoming him back

[TVBS via Yahoo! News]

Ke Cihai: How are you, sir?  I am here to meet a passenger, not to protest.

Police: Do you usually meet or see people off here?

Ke Cihai: No, no.  I don't have any set habit.  I am a businessman.

Police:  Fine, fine.  Let us go and have a cup of tea.  Come on, come on.

Ke Cihai: I am waiting for my lawyer.

Police: Please get in the police car.

Ke Cihai: I did not break any laws.  You cannot arrest me.

Police: I am only following the law.  Just come and hang around for a while.  Just come and hang around for a while.  Come on, come on, come on.

[Physical struggle]

Ke Cihai: You can't do that.  You can't do that.  It is dangerous.  It is dangerous.  Someone can get hurt.

[The police did not dare to apply a lot of force.]

Ke Cihai: Ouch, I was squeezed!  I am injured."

Police: We told you not to do this!

Crowd: He is not breaking any law!

Ke Cihai: I am not.  That is right.

Police: Alright, alright, alright.

[Four or five policemen were pushing him from outside the car, and one was pulling him from inside the car.]

Police: Careful, careful, careful.

[After a wrestling match, Ke Cihai ended up at the police station.  In a major situation like this one, the appearnce of the Heavenly King of Protests (抗議天王), Ke Cihai, immediately drew this kind of response from the police.]