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PBS Apologizes for Editing ‘Live’ Fireworks During July 4 Broadcast

PBS uses old Fourth of July fireworks footage; Twitter explodes 1:42

PBS apologized Tuesday for what it called "confusion" after thousands of viewers complained that it spliced in video of old Washington, D.C., fireworks in its live "A Capitol Fourth" broadcast on Independence Day.

Washington was heavily overcast and foggy Monday night — which was readily apparent as the fireworks faded into dense clouds:

IMAGE: D.C. fireworks
Fireworks explode Monday night over the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. AP

But what viewers saw Monday night were colorful explosions high up in crystal clear skies:

IMAGE: 'A Capitol Fourth' screen shot
An image from PBS' 'A Capitol Fourth' Independence Day show Monday night.

Not only that, but as the show progressed, construction scaffolding enveloping the U.S. Capitol — which wasn't there in previous years — would disappear and then reappear.

Reaction was swift and savage:

By about 10 p.m. Monday, the network acknowledged that the supposedly "live" show was, in fact, "a combination of the best fireworks from this year and previous years." It said the editing was "the patriotic thing to do."

But critics weren't satisfied, and on Tuesday, PBS followed up with a statement saying it had interpolated old fireworks "for the best possible television viewing experience."

The network said it was "very proud of the 2016 A Capitol Fourth celebration," but it apologized for "any confusion" the decision might have caused.

Tom Bergeron, the broadcast's host, said Tuesday he didn't know about the switch as the show was on the air, although he suggested on Twitter that he was OK with it.

But PBS ombudsman Michael Getler said the criticism was appropriate.

"Why the producers and the on-camera hosts of the event could not take 10 seconds to say (or post on the screen) something like: 'To you folks out there around the country watching on television, the weather is not so good here on the nation's front lawn tonight and you can't see the fireworks very well, so we are going to show you clips from earlier displays while the great National Symphony Orchestra plays on,' is, to me, sort of mind-boggling," Getler wrote Tuesday.

Getler quoted PBS executives as saying they had "informed the producers that, under PBS' Editorial Standards and Policies, this usage should have been acknowledged during the program itself."

An on-screen notice has been added to the online streaming video of the concert, PBS said.