Footage You Were Never Supposed To See
The behind-the-scenes maneuverings of politicians and newscasters in the early 1990s are exposed
in Brian Springer's documentary.
Artist Brian Springer spent a year scouring the airwaves with a satellite dish
grabbing back channel news feeds not intended for public consumption. The result of his research is SPIN, one of the most
insightful films ever made about the mechanics of how television is used as a tool of social control to distort and limit
the American public's perception of reality.
Take the time to watch it from beginning to end and you'll never look
at TV reporting the same again. Tell your friends about it. This extraordinary film released in the early 1990s is almost
completely unknown. Hopefully, the Internet will change that.
One of the most important films of the last 25 years
time 57:26, click play to start
As a TV democracy, the U.S. is linked into one televised nation throgh the use of Satellite feeds. These feeds carry the live raw TV image before it
has been packed by the networks with music, graphics or commercials. Satellite feeds reveal images of TV personalities in
from a live camera with open microphones before they go on-air and again during commercial breaks. Because the feeds are sent
out unscrambled and are visible to over 4 million dish owners across America, anyone with a home dish can tune them in. The
networks view the nation as one big patch bay on which they can spill feeds of TV personalities being made up, cajoling, primping
and whispering. To the networks, these feed out-takes are trash, and to most home dish-owners, boring. To me, the feeds are
a window into the construction and performance of character, and the floating TV talk-show called the 1992 U.S. Presidential
I chose 1992 as the year to monitor the satellite spectrum because of the national election; feeds are the easiest and
cheapest way for the candidates and the networks to teleport their images across the vast landscape of a national election.
George Bush began when he hired the former producer of ABC's "Nightline" to orchestrate his satellite re-election bid: Bush
was beamed via satellite to many local TV stations to appear in "Nightline"-style interviews with the kinder and gentler local
news anchors, and the other candidates followed suit. Larry King held court on satellite as the candidates made over 100 talk-show
appearances (they made only 2 in 1988), and LA burned with hundreds of feeds as the networks spun the dissent. I'd trawl the
spectrum, starting with the morning TV talk-shows at 6AM and end at midnight with "Nightline". I lost muscle-tone in my stomach,
damaged the nerves in my thumb with the remote-control and felt only as good as my last image.
The result of this
viewing experiment is a one-hour video documentary called SPIN which uses feeds to unravel the election and the televised
events which framed it, such as the L.A. riots, Colombus' 500th anniversary, and the struggle for reproductive and sexual rights. Spin captures the contempt for the public whispered by spin doctors,
and the hallucinogenic collusion of the candidates, the press and the technology.
The following are
transcript excerpts from SPIN:
Larry King Live With Bill Clinton
(Feeding from Louisville, Kentucky -- 10/28/92)
Narration: 1992 was probably a historic first as a major network's
advertising revenues from its political coverage made more money than it cost to report the campaign. For CNN the election
was a watershed as the network received its highest ratings since the Gulf War.
King: That's the one break we have to hit live. It's an around-the-world break. Hard to believe we're being watched
in 151 countries. Scary. I'm in Israel --I'm at the Wailing Wall--true story-Israel, never been there before. I'm with my brother. I'm Jewish, it's my culture.
Standing there is an old rabbi davening, praying, old Jewish man. He looks up at me and says, "What's with Perot?" I swear
to God. "What's with Perot?" in Israel.
Clinton: I love it.
King: It's crazy. Ted Turner changed the world. He's a big fan of yours.
Clinton: Is he?
King: He would-ah-serve you-you know what I mean?
Clinton: You're kidding.
King: Oh you'd be surprised--he's ready--what's he got left in life to gain. I'd call him after you're elected.
Think about it. No dope.
Clinton: That's for sure.
King: Great guy to work for, too...
Larry King Live with George Bush
(Feeding from San Antonio, Texas -- 10/7/92)
Narration: 1991 and 1992
had been years of political extremes for George Bush. After the Gulf War in 1991, he had the highest approval rating of any president in modern history. But as the U.S. economy fell so did Bush's ratings and his health. He and his First Lady, Barbara Bush, developed a thyroid condition known as Graves' Disease. As Bush's ratings fell further, he decided to appear on Larry King's show. His appearance marked the first time a president
had been on a call-in talk-show in over 15 years.
King: You feeling well, by the way?
King: Are you feeling well?
Bush: Pretty good-lucky-running still and played tennis yesterday.
King: What is that disease you had?
Bush: Uh-uh-Crohn's-no, not Crohn's-uh, just thyroid--I don't know...
King: What-they drug treat it, right?
Bush: Make you take a drug every single morning. A little blue thing--synthroid or something and it wasn't heart.
It's what-it's what the thyroid does to make your heart fillibrate but it's been very good.
King: You know I took Halcion for a long time after my heart surgery.
Bush: Are you off it now? I don't know that it's bad, Larry.
King: It's the best sleeping pill in the world but not daily.
Bush: No, oh no--but it's gotten such a bad rap.
Narration: Halcion had gotten such a bad rap thata its product license in Britain was provisionally withdrawn. Some
users of the drug complained of amnesia, anxiety, delusions and hostility.
Larry King Live with George Bush
(Feeding from Racine, Wisconsin -- 10/30/92)
King: Unbelievable. Strangest year in the history of man.
Bush: Tell me about it. I got a darn cold.
King: You got a cold?
King: My brother is in the drug business -hold on-hold on a second. (pause)
King: Thanks Patrick. Right ahead with an historic evening. 90-minute special Larry-King-Live with the President
of the United States and your phone calls. It's next from Racine, Wisconsin -- don't go away. (applause)
King: My brother is in the pharmaceutical business. He says there is a pill coming
from Israel better than Halcion.
Bush: You mean sleeping pill or decongestant?
Larry King Live with Pat Robertson
(Robertson feeding from his Christian Broadcasting Network studio -- 11/4/92)
Caller: That Republican Convention was one of the most hateful things. I'm a Republican but I'll tell you what:
Pat Robertson personally was one of the reasons why I voted against George Bush..
King: OK, now, Pat, He's saying you would not let a pro-choiceperson chair your party ot you would try to stop it.
Robertson: He just contradicted what I just said. I'm sitting here in this chair telling you something different...how
does he know what I'll do...he obviously didn't hear my speech at the convention.
Robertson: That guy was a homo--as sure as you're alive.
Spin Doctor 1: Yeah, you didn't look rattled.
Spin Doctor 2: ...The key thing with something like that is, you take the one sentence and turn it around and go
on to another issue. Remember, you're answering the questions. You can talk about anything you want to.
Robertson: What's that?
Spin Doctor 2: Did you get a good question?
Spin Doctor 1: This last one is.
Robertson: The last one, yeah, but I didn't get it.
Spin Doctor 2: I called them up and said who in heck is screening these calls? I've had one person call him a bigot.
I've had another call him a zealot. Let's get some balance out there...
Robertson: It's too late. The last on is okay, but the first three were all homosexuals.
Spin Doctor 2:I know, I know.
Robertson: I've had this before.
Spin Doctor 1: You can answer the question any way you choose to.
Robertson: I hear you.
Spin Doctor 1: All right. Remember, so take it where you want it to go, take it where you want it to go.
Spin Doctor 2: I don't like the producer of this segment.
Robertson: Well, they were trying to set me up.
Spin Doctor 2: That's what they told me, that's what the Harris people told me.
Robertson: Did they accomplish it or have I come back all right?
Spin Doctor 2:No I think you are fine, I'm just upset...
Spin Doctor 1: It hasn't come across on your face as being angry.
Robertson: I'm not angry, who's angry?
Spin Doctor 1: I mean you look good. Just remember you can answer any way you want.
Robertson: I hear you. You're right.
Springer provided the satellite feeds for the 1992 film FEED by Kevin Rafferty and James Ridgeway (less than one
minute of footage seen in FEED is used in SPIN).
Born in 1959, Springer studied video at the State University of New York
In Buffalo, he has worked with other artists to co-found a number of community organizations supporting the
production of media art and public-access cable.