PBS Admits to Recycling Old Fireworks Coverage for A Capitol Fourth




PBS on Monday was criticized for attempting to do the “patriotic thing” by enhancing its fireworks coverage during the annual A Capitol Fourth special.

In an effort to deliver the “best possible television viewing experience,” producers of the Fourth of July concert program included footage from previous years’ pyrotechnic displays, to make up for the fact that this year’s event was affected by inclement weather in the Washington, D.C. area.

The pre-taped portions drew outcries from social media, including one viewer who referred to the manufactured broadcast as “the Milli Vanilli of fireworks.” A fellow Twitter commentator joked that “only in D.C. could a PBS show become a scandal.”

In response, PBS released the following statements:

The 36th annual Capitol Fourth broadcast included performances by Motown legend Smokey Robinson, “Footloose” crooner Kenny Loggins, Younger‘s Sutton Foster and The Voice alumni Alisan Porter and Cassadee Pope, among others.

What do you think of this “explosive” controversy?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Darlene says:

    Not a big deal. IMO, you’ve seen one fireworks show…you’ve seen ’em all.
    I watched for the musical entertainment. The singers were excellent!

  2. LADY_in_MD says:

    For anyone who loves around here you can understand why they did what they did the weather was bad yesterday they canceled a lot of the local fireworks shows around Maryland because visibility was bad if they didn’t do what they did the Twitter complainers would be complaining how bad the quality was on TV

  3. Glenn says:

    With all the problems in this country, people are wasting time on this?

  4. David4 says:

    Not everything in DC is a scandal, but everyone acts like it. A few years ago Boston had fireworks and you couldn’t see 90% of them i the fog. Waste of time and money.

  5. Cranky says:

    Country star Kenny Loggins?? Uummmm, no.

  6. Carm says:

    This is not a big deal. The weather was bad here yesterday and made the fireworks hard to see. So PBS showed some that were easier to see. So

  7. KLP says:

    It would have been such an easy fix to tag it “portions pre-recorded” but no, they went in and out of the live feed and then called it the “patriotic” thing to do. I don’t want my “live” TV edited for patriotism. I am smart enough to realize that sometimes it rains. Also, this is not the first broadcast that PBS has used old shots of the fireworks. It was just never so obvious before or defended with such patronizing characterization.

  8. I think this country has more to worry about than a doctored fireworks display!

  9. Ryan says:

    Ok…who cares? One year the weather was so bad they had to cancel the event mid-performance. Recycling out past fireworks is better than not getting anything. Oh…and it’s just fireworks people, calm down!

  10. Lauren says:

    Who cares? It’s fireworks on TV, of which I’ve never understood the appeal. I’m still mad about all the guest performances that American Idol insisted on pretending they were live when there was enough documentation of them being per-recorded. I remember specifically Ryan Seacrest batting around a beach ball that was supposedly left over from a JLO performance that I had already seen on Twitter had been filmed before the show aired. There was never enough outrage over that to suit me. I can get over fireworks not being live.

  11. shkamidit says:

    I totally called this last night! But it was still a great show. The performances were way better than the NBC telecast in New York.

  12. kate Beckerle says:

    wasn’t the Voice winner that performed Cassidy Pope? Did Alison Porter perform as well?

  13. Mary says:

    I cannot comprehend why this is a big deal. Personally if people were offended because they showed past display they could of turn the station.

  14. John NYC says:

    Fine to do, but: do a crawler or something to give notice. The show is allegedly “live” after all.

  15. Jim K says:

    The problem television producers face when broadcasting any kind of live outdoor events is that they are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Most years the weather is perfect, but a few are not. A couple years ago, they had to scrap the live telecast halfway through due to a severe thunderstorm moving into the region, forcing producers to go to backup footage from the previous year. This year…..overcast with too many clouds. The director’s decision to intercut pretaped fireworks footage with the live feed was merely a judgement call. I’m sure most people will appreciate the difficulties of putting on these live outdoor telecasts year after year. Fortunately though, most years the weather has been perfect and the live telecasts go off without a hitch.

    • John NYC says:

      Sure, but then it is not a “live” telecast. To label it do as they did is misleading. For a news outlet misleading is not a good thing.

  16. Winter says:

    HA! I was at my Dad’s house and he kept going see that’s not this year! We were laughing about it going ok that’s live, that’s not. He also rewound and made us listen to Kenny Loggins sing Footloose 3 times. Oh Dad.

  17. Mommaknowsbest says:

    Definitely first world whiners. Get over it.

  18. grazelled says:

    Living in Calif. everything in the Eastern time zone is pre recorded for us anyway. The weather kept changing during the show so I just enjoyed a spectacular fireworks show!

    I did wonder how much smoke the fireworks produced to make it look so hazy at times lol

  19. I watched on TV and really didn’t notice any of the switches to previous years. However, I did wonder how they were going to pull it off with all of the rain. TV viewers got a good show but I would imagine those who were there were not amused by their using other broadcasts interspersed with the live fireworks, if there were any live at all.

  20. John NYC says:

    I didn’t realize Millin Vanilli was on a comeback tour.

  21. Marci says:

    So what? Should they have canceled the show altogether? I enjoyed the fireworks, and don’t care that it was old footage.

  22. Nicki says:

    Who cares. There’s nothing patriotic about this president anyway. Surprised there even allowed.

  23. Richard says:

    PBS apologized for any “confusion” they might have caused. This is not a matter of causing confusion but rather deliberate deceit! Shame on you PBS; I hope you’ve learned your lesson.

    • grazelled says:

      For giving us a great fireworks show? For shame. I hope they never learn to give viewers the best and greatest fireworks display possible every 4th of July even when it rains even if they have to splice things up.

      • Richard says:

        When I say shame on them, it’s for not being upfront about it and letting us know exactly what they were doing. I’m sure some viewers would have preferred to see only stuff that was live, while others would have preferred the splicing in of previously used but more spectacular pictures. The main issue (in my opinion) is that they did it *without letting the viewers know*.

  24. Skip says:

    Your instructions above are insulting and assume all viewers are moronic complainers. The simple fact is that the pbs 4th show with fake fireworks from prior years is deeply disturbing because it suggests a cavalier attitude toward what you owe your viewers ( the truth) and significantly discourages our continued contributions ($$) . Way to go to the moron who approved such a dishonest tactic. Probably tbe same person who thinks insulting your viewers who care to respond is OK . Arrogant assholes come to mind. Who would donate to such losers? I suspect you have lost viewers ($$) due to your arrogant, dishonest and insulting activities.

  25. AW says:

    PBS should have been honest and said “certain portions were prerecorded and added into tonight’s broadcast” at the beginning of the special.

  26. Why are people upset with this? You’re watching on TV because you’re NOT in D.C. Who cares if they’re live or pre-taped fireworks? I give PBS credit for thinking that the TV-watching public tuned in to watch pretty fireworks and seamlessly switched back and forth from live to pre-taped. It was obvious they were not live, given the fact that you could tell the live feed had fireworks that were half in low-hanging clouds. If only this was the biggest thing we as Americans had to worry about. Geez.

  27. Weezy says:

    I love the title…oh and the author acting like there aren’t countless examples of this kind of behavior (Re: Anderson Cooper and 3 or 4 times he has gotten caught using a green screen already) all over mainstream media. Sorry but lying, being deceitful and hateful, and manipulating large masses of people was never considered “patriotic” even in this hell of mentally insane people we now live in.