Live Broadcasting the Political Debate from Mobile Devices

This week, several members of Congress added a new skill set to their legislative toolkit – live news broadcasters.

When the House of Representatives feed was cut during the House Democrats gun reform sit-in on the House floor, Representatives turned to their mobile devices and began broadcasting live through digital platforms like Periscope and Facebook Live.

Lacking video footage of this significant event, traditional broadcast news sources, such as C-SPAN and CNN, pulled their live video feeds from these personal broadcast feeds.

It’s a sign of the new times for broadcast journalism.

Anyone – including elected officials and their staffers – with an Internet-enabled device and social media profiles can become a live news broadcaster. With competition growing for airtime on TV news, more and more elected officials and political candidates will be broadcasting speeches, events, debates and examples of advocacy via mobile device apps and social media networks to reach their constituents and supporters directly.

This direct approach offers news consumers a more personal – and unedited – connection to these public policy conversations. Via Periscope, Facebook Live and other live video broadcasting methods, viewers can experience a “behind-the-scenes” perspective of significant political events and become an active participant in the conversation by posting questions and comments in real-time for reaction and response.

Also, live broadcasting platforms offer channels to continue the public discourse following an event as well. After the failure of the gun reform amendments in the U.S. Senate, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) held a question-and-answer session with the public via Facebook Live.

This trend provides opportunities for advocacy organizations engaging in these larger public policy conversations to become live video broadcasters, and add their live video – and voices – to the public and media’s news consumption. During the gun reform-related Senate filibuster and House sit-in, organizations championing gun reform produced and shared live video broadcasts during and following these events as well.

As we near the presidential conventions in July, expect to see more engagement on personal broadcast platforms. Whether participants are lobbying on the convention floor, speaking from the convention stage or protesting outside the arena, live broadcasts via social networks could become primary content sources for broadcast media covering the conventions and the rest of this election cycle.

So how can we do live broadcasting well? Here’s a few words (and tips) to keep in mind:

  • Share. To raise the visibility and views of your live broadcast, tell everyone who follows you on social media that you are live. Even though Periscope and Facebook Live platform offers viewers, posting your live feed on Twitter with relevant hashtags will broaden your audience and get media attention. During the sit-in last week, House Democrats received a lot of attention thanks to sharing on Twitter.
  • Focus. Keep the video image steady and centered on the action while live broadcasting. If the camera view moves around too much or is jumpy, you will lose the attention of your audience and the interest of news producers. Stay focused on a key person or vantage point to tell your viewers what to focus on. Representatives kept their mobile devices trained on the speakers in order for their audiences to hear the message behind their sit-in action, which had been silenced by the cutting of the House video feed.
  • Edit. Know when to stop live streaming. Not everything is worthy or necessary for live broadcast. Ensure that you are streaming content that supports your goal and is relevant for your audience. During the House Democrats’ sit-in broadcasts, you’ll notice that Periscope and Facebook Live feeds ended when internal planning meetings were held on the floor. Once they concluded and speeches and protesting resumed, so did the live broadcast feeds.
  • Options. Plan for multiple people to live broadcast to provide different perspectives of an event while guaranteeing there will always be someone producing a live stream to your audience. While guests in the gallery were unable to bring cell phones into the chamber during the House sit-in, several House and Senate members brought their phones in and used them for live broadcasting. C-SPAN and other TV news networks covering the events on the floor were able to alternate between multiple live feeds due to the number of Congresspersons broadcasting.
  • Charge. Who knows how long you’ll need to broadcast. House Democrats had no idea how long they needed to hold the floor in protest. As the hours stretched on, they were able to keep their devices charged and continue live broadcasting into the early hours of the morning. Make sure that you have your power cord and/or another source for back-up power to keep your mobile devices able to broadcast.