I worked with my colleague Chuck Kleinhans at Northwestern University on a media study of the cable channel “Court TV.” While the current channel “TruTV” has roots in Court TV, they are really nothing alike. Court TV was owned by a lawyer and went courtroom-by-courtroom across the country fighting for access for cameras to the courtroom. They learned how to “do it right” in the broadcast of court proceedings – no easy feat. You don’t want to just dump any set of technologists into a courtroom and expect everything to be alright. Judges became experienced in how to handle cameras. The legacy of their early successes remain in most states today.
Chuck and I watched Court TV for ten years to do our study. It is humanities-oriented (ie not quantitative) and a fun read. Court TV provided live gavel-to-gavel coverage of fascinating cases from divorces to small claims court. It provided post-trial interpretation by experts and in the early years, it even had continuing-education programs for lawyers. Court TV was not able to sustain sufficient ratings and transformed into the popular-cime-drama/docu genre that it is now.
Here is the citation: Chuck Kleinhans and Rick Morris, “Court TV: The Evolution of a Reality Format,” Startling! Heartbreaking!Real! Reality TV and the Remaking of Television Culture, Laurie Ouellette and Sue Murray, eds., (New York: NYU Press, 2004), 157-175 Note that this is the FIRST edition of the book. Laurie and Sue went on to do a second edition and Court TV had transformed into TruTV by then so our chapter did not make it through to the second edition.