The fatal snare of proximity: live television, new media and the witnessing of Mumbai attacks

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This article explores the phenomenology of live television through analysing the media coverage of the traumatic event of the Mumbai attacks. Carried out over 3 days, the event garnered global attention as its lurid details were transmitted live into living rooms with television channels seeking to gain viewership by getting the closest shot of the action. The competition for eyeballs compromised the rescue operation as trapped hostages were asked to relay crucial details about their location to reporters through the use of new media technologies. This article uses the theory of witnessing to argue that live television’s relentless quest for absolute proximity remains an elusive endeavour in the age of new media technologies. In seeking to get as close as possible to the event, live television changes its very nature and becomes enmeshed in the unfolding of real- ity. In the case of Mumbai’s coverage, this erasure of the split between the viewer and the viewed had fatal consequences for the trapped hostages.


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