I Can See Blurry Now the News is On

One of my favorite quirks of Japanese TV is its absurd dedication to privacy and secrecy. The dedication is serious enough that the people involved seem to forget television is a visual medium.

The first thing they do is that they crop the neighbors when they interview them for the “He seemed like such a nice guy for a man who walked around his yard in tighty whities and a gas mask and carried a machete.” quote. They usually focus on the chest, even if the person volunteered to speak. Sometimes they even disguise the voice.

The next example is that, for some reason, TV news is not allowed to show handcuffs on an arrested suspect. I’ve been told this is so that people don’t think the suspect is guilty. Keep in mind, the suspect is stepping out of a police car, is surrounded by dozens of police officers and is being escorted into a police station, but if we see handcuffs, we might think he’s guilty. (Or as my friend Charles once said “Perhaps he’s discovered the cure for cancer…”)

Why is this crim, er, man smiling?

Really, does the mosaic make this crimi-, er this man, look innocent?

The third thing they do is that they will blur out almost every thing on a screen to hide the faces of bystanders and to hide the story’s location. Sometimes one fragment of the screen will be clear or they will highlight the important bit, so that you can follow that something important is happening even if you can’t see it.

Very important things are happening here, as you can clearly see.

Very important things are happening here, as you can clearly see.

One of my favorite news broadcasts of all time was a sting operation to catch a serial train groper in the act. As bait, they used a female police officer dressed in a school girl outfit and pretty much every one in the car was a police officer. As the events unfolded every centimeter of the train car was blurred to hide the location and the inside was blurred to hide the identities of the police, the few non-police and the suspect. The actual crime occurred under a different colored blur and then there was lots of shouting–with computer distorted voice–from out of the blur and then the blur moved out onto the train platform.

The effect was the same as listening to news on a radio whilst watching the static on a dead TV channel and calling it TV news. And yet it was oddly fascinating.

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