The royals in New York, as viewed from the UK

Arrival of the royal couple in New York, as shown on the CBS Evening News.

William and Kate arriving in New York, as seen on the CBS Evening News.

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived at their New York hotel this week, it was big news.  Did you catch the squeals of delight from the crowd and the flicker of so many cameras flashing? The arrival scene was featured on a number of American news programs.

 

How it was seen in the UK

This same New York arrival scene was shown in the UK as well—but with an important difference.

This same scene was shown on the UK’s Sky News. Notice anything different?

Rapid-fire flash photography from the swarm of media creates a strobe-like effect on the image, which is known to trigger seizures in some people. In the US this material is broadcast despite the seizure risk.

But for more than 20 years, TV programs and commercials flashing at frequencies that can provoke seizures have been barred from broadcast in the UK. An exception to the regulation is made for breaking news coverage, where potentially seizure-inducing material is allowed to air if accompanied by a warning. These regulations were put in place after a noodle commercial triggered seizures in several British viewers.

Out of curiosity I tested a video clip of that New York sidewalk scene to see if the flash freqency falls into the category of a seizure hazard. I used an application called the Harding Flash and Pattern Analyzer (below) that assesses video sequences for seizure safety. The clip did in fact exceed flash safety limits for people vulnerable to visually induced seizures. Folks in the UK at least got an on-screen warning, which perhaps gives susceptible viewers a chance to avert their eyes.

The flash photography did indeed create a hzard for viewers with photosensitive epilepsy. A clip of the royals arriving in New York failed the seizure safety test.

News video of the royals arriving in New York did indeed fail the seizure safety test, as indicated by the green line above the pass/fail boundary on the graph. Screen is taken from the Harding Flash and Pattern Analyzer.

What happens when American TV programs are shown in the UK?

TV programs and music videos imported to Great Britain from the US (and other countries) need to be tested first, then modified to comply with the British seizure safety mandate. An engineer in a London post-production studio who does this compliance work shared with me that a popular US crime series had nearly 150 violations of seizure safety guidelines in a single episode. Where is the consumer lobby for seizure-safe TV programming in this country? Anybody?


2 Comments on “The royals in New York, as viewed from the UK”

  1. Erika says:

    This is so upsetting! I don’t understand why our country tuns it back to our safety in every way! It is the same with food. The same companies produce their food differently for us than they do for other countries bc the other countries don’t allow harmful ingredients. Very disappointing


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