Camera Industry’s Next Challenge: Live Streaming

Another invention that will make life even harder for journalists and media professionals — an app called Meerkat, allowing people to transmit live video from your smartphone. One reason for the rapidly growing popularity of the app is certainly its ease of use. Authenticate via Twitter, and the live transmission can be started with just one click, turning portable devices into live broadcasting cameras.

It’s the live-sharing of images taken to the next step, posing another thread to traditional camera companies that have their back increasingly up against the wall: it’s smartphone developers and app writers that push innovation; it’s portable devices that lead the path camera companies have to follow if they want to stay relevant. All that’s left for serious cameras is image quality. For how long? Now, even simple smartphones can be turned into capable live TV cameras.

Whatever happens anywhere, once you have an iPhone (Android and Windows Phone users can only view the Meerkat streams for now) and the app installed, the live stream is available to all subscribers of the Twitter user. Usually, there’s a short delay of 10 to 20 seconds. Not much slower than live TV, and what’s even more worrisome to conventional TV crews is that thanks to increasingly sophisticated smartphone cameras, the video captured by the phone comes pretty close to standard TV quality.

It’s certainly another nail in the coffin of traditional media, heralding not only a potential revolution of journalism. Meerkat could alter the way we communicate. But there are problems — why again did Google freeze the development of Glass? They won’t admit it publicly, but what would have happened to the right of privacy?

In many countries around the world, both filming and broadcasting in public without release forms or explicit consent are illegal. Try streaming a live feed from a demonstration. The “right to one’s own image” of the persons shown in the live video would be violated, the offended parties may file a lawsuit.

Even if you should live-stream a crime or an accident, the video could most likely not be admitted as evidence in court, since it has been made without consent. A solution would be to pixelate faces, signs and number plates, yet such a feature is not yet available on Meerkat.

Last but not least, we all know how dangerous action cameras can be because they tempt users to perform overly risky stuff. Meerkat filmmakers might be too close to the action they attempt to report on, be it during a natural disaster, violent clashes or at an accident. Or how would you feel if you’re in trouble and someone pushes live-streaming phone in your face.

Meerkat seems aware of the issues, so they developed an own credo called The Rules of Meerkat, which might not be enough to please the critics:

Everything that happens on Meerkat happens on Twitter.
Streams will be pushed to followers in real time via push notifications.
People can only watch it live. No reruns.
Watchers can restream any stream to their followers in real time.
Scheduled streams will be distributed in the community by their subscribers.
Your own streams can be kept locally on your phone, but never on the cloud.
Everyone can watch on Web.
Be kind.

One of the booming citizen journalism’s problems though:

The more citizen journalism we have, the fewer professional journalists we have, because the industry is finding it ever harder to pay the professionals when others are reporting stuff for free. And while citizen journalism is a valuable resource, it can also proliferate a lot more misinformation, manipulated information and stuff that is just plain wrong compared to what professional journalism is expected to do. Not that professional journalism is completely free from those failings. It’s just, their job is on the line, they’re less in PR.

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