January 21, 2009 / 5:48 AM / 10 years ago

Worldwide TV audiences watch as Obama is sworn in

LONDON (Hollywood Reporter) - Broadcasters around the world ripped up their schedules Tuesday to carry live coverage of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, as U.S. political historians, pundits and celebrities were called on to provide commentary on the historic proceedings.

Using pooled footage, broadcasters showed a sea of Obama hats stretching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument as excitement over the inauguration of the 44th president of the U.S. began to build from midmorning Washington time.

In the United Kingdom, the BBC simulcast live coverage across BBC1, BBC News and BBC World News as well as its radio and online outlets. In addition to having a five-strong team of reporters in Washington, the British pubcaster called on veteran broadcaster Bob Woodward, historian Robert Dallek and Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree — who taught both Barack and Michelle Obama — for commentary.

Similar coverage was aired across Europe, with broadcasters including Sky News, Euronews and France 24 providing uninterrupted coverage of the inauguration preparations and speech.

And broadcasters brought out their heavy guns, with public channels such as France 2, Spain’s La 2 and Germany’s ARD sending 30- or 40-strong production teams to Washington.

Spain’s TVE 1 lined up actor Antonio Banderas as an “expert” commentator from the U.S. for its radio coverage, while the pundit team on French pubcaster TF1 included Gallic presidential candidate Segolene Royal.

Many of the round-the-clock news channels — nTV and N24 in Germany, Euronews, France’s I-Tele and BFM TV — offered nonstop images, often with local-language subtitles, while the bigger networks provided simultaneous translation of the ceremony and Obama’s speech.


From Portugal to Poland, Madrid to Munich, U.S. expatriates and Obama fans also threw impromptu inauguration parties. Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe went one step further, hosting a VIP fete in the city’s Hotel de Ville (City Hall).

In Bangkok, the U.S. expatriate crowd gathered at the Roadhouse BBQ for a beer-fueled CNN-a-thon that began at 7 p.m. local time and went until well past 1 a.m.

In one of many similar events around Oz, the University of Sydney’s Manning Bar was open from midnight, with the University’s United States Studies Center hosting a live viewing party on big screens to wrap its six-month-long Election Watch ‘08.

Australian news outlets provided wall-to-wall coverage Tuesday, with six cable news channels and five broadcast networks available, most with reporters on the ground in Washington. The inauguration also was used as a key plank in Tuesday’s launch of a new locally produced pay TV channel dedicated to politics and public affairs, APAC (the Australian Public Affairs Channel).

The inauguration and speech also received broad coverage by English-language broadcasters in the Arab world, with networks including Al Jazeera English and Middle Eastern station Press TV broadcasting continuous coverage of the speech in which the new president pledged that America would be “a friend to every nation on Earth.”

Al Jazeera English interviewed U.S. soldiers in Kabul about the change in the U.S. administration and drew on commentary from John Nichols of the Nation magazine, while Indian broadcaster NDTV carried live coverage and commentary courtesy of MSNBC; Russia Today carried an interview with Malik Zulu Shabazz, head of the New Black Panthers, who offered a view on the president’s role in the Middle East.

But not all broadcasters gave the U.S. president’s inauguration top billing. Japan’s NHK World TV ran a program about termite damage to domestic properties while internationally available Chinese broadcaster CCTV9 aired a cooking and magazine program.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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