Pros, Cons and Ethical Dilemmas of Live-Streaming

In Social Media by University of Florida

by Lana Nasser

Since live-streaming first started surfacing on apps like Meerkat and Periscope, many who formerly watched traditional news broadcasts now look to live-streaming as a source for timely information. While Meerkat and Periscope have been available for some time, social media giants like Facebook and YouTube are making strides in this area by giving users a platform to publish content in real-time with few restrictions.

In some ways, the benefits of live-streaming put traditional news broadcasts to shame. While traditional broadcasts are typically a one-way conversation — news anchor or reporter to viewer — live-streaming allows audiences the opportunity to give feedback on what they’re seeing. Traditional news broadcasts define news for viewers, while live-streaming let’s audiences have a say in what news is.

Live-streaming also requires only one person to deliver news in real time. Even when traditional broadcasts are delivered live from the scene, these broadcasts are censored based on FCC regulations. Live-streaming is uncensored content, giving viewers the opportunity to decipher what they see and hear on their own accord.

In addition to the benefits of uncensored content, the immediacy of real time and increased opportunity for engagement between audiences and publishers, live-streaming gives smaller news organizations and freelance journalists an opportunity to publish content made at a lower cost than traditional news broadcasts require.

According to Emergency Journalism, the fact that anyone with a smartphone and stable internet connection can produce their own broadcasting channel is a huge step toward the decentralization of media power. But with power comes great responsibility.

As new live-streaming applications pop up from social media conglomerates like Youtube or Facebook and start-up companies like Blab, it’s important to note the potentials for risk and reward.

One of the issues with live-streaming concerns journalistic values and ethics, such as fact-checking, researching and producing fair and unbiased content, which are questionable in content produced with live-streaming apps.

Another downfall of live-streaming is reliance on a stable internet connection. In crowded situations when many people are attempting to use their mobile devices at once, live-streaming may not be feasible due to slow connection and interference. Live-streaming is also susceptible to change.

Public relations professionals must remain flexible and embrace change with live-streaming as they do with all other forms of social media, according to host of the “Why I Social” podcast and social media strategist Chris Barrows. As new live-streaming platforms become popularized, it is important to note that public relations professionals must not exclusively look to these live-streaming platforms for feedback, but should consider them and what their users are saying about them, Barrows said.

At the very least, public relations practitioners should use the popularization of these live-streaming platforms as a new gauge that gives more insight into the reach and impact these applications have on publics, as well as how that affects various markets and interests.

This post originally appeared in Progressions, a publication of Public Relations Student Society of America.

Lana Nasser is a recent graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications and a member of the Community Service and Advocacy Committee at the UF PRSSA Chapter.

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