German mountaineer Jost Kobusch captured the terrifying moment the Everest base camp was hit by an avalanche triggered by the Nepal earthquake.

The April 2015 Nepal earthquake (also known as the Gorkha earthquake) killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000.

Kobusch posted his footage to YouTube.

NOTE: Kobusch can be heard cursing while filming the horror of an avalanche hitting the Everest Basecamp.

The BBC posted a video story card on their Instagram feed with Kobusch’s footage. They altered the audio track without providing an explanation.

They have since removed the post, but you can see a replay of the video below.

Do you notice anything odd about the video?

Play it again with the sound up and your eyes closed.

They muted the eyewitness audio and added music and sound effects that were not actually present at the horrific scene.
According to the Shazam app, the music presented with this breaking news clip is actually is a track titled “Antipathy” which is from a music library published by Gothic Storm Music.

Click hear to hear a sample on Amazon.

The BBC posts video story cards on Instagram to reach millennials who may not normally get their breaking news reports. Their channel has more than 3.8 million followers.

I show these kind of fast facts reports in my workshops as examples of how visual story cards can reach audiences who spend most of their time with their mobile phone.

They often work great in a streaming news environment.

I reached out to the BBC journalists and others in my Twitter feed asking “At what point do you decide to alter the audio track of raw footage provided by an eyewitness/victim at a breaking news scene?”

I received the following responses:

Dan Graham, the CEO of Gothic Storm Music says:

As library music, the BBC is free to use it as they see fit as part of their blanket license deal with MCPS but I have to admit, it seems like a pretty bad decision to me – it’s designed for movie trailers not real tragedies.”

Cameron Robertson, a freelance video journalist with top credentials writes:

” @robbmontgomery @MarcSettle Bleeping the swearing would have been fine. Menacing tones are a bit ill-judged and leave a slight bad taste.
— Cameron Robertson (@CamRobertson5) April 27, 2015

I showed this to my friend, Marc Settle who is a Mojo trainer for the BBC.

@robbmontgomery the original audio is basically the guy saying F*CK F*CK F*CK quite loudly, so something had to run in its place..

— marc blank-settle (@MarcSettle) April 27, 2015

NOTE: Marc is not the social media editor for the BBC and had no role in the editing the broadcaster makes for their Instagram channel.

The BBC was pioneering a 15-second slideshow news format featuring smart visual editing, consistent subtitles and branding. I have shown many fine examples of their work at media conferences because they are reaching younger, mobile-centric audiences.

There just seemed to be a pattern of adding music to eyewitness video footage around this time in 2015.

Another BBC Instagram post showing the quake damage in Kathmandu featured music mixed in with audio of people crying.

Listen again.
A viewer can reasonably wonder which parts of the audio are real? If artificial music was added in post, were the sounds of crying also added? Probably not, but there is no explanation.

Note: The BBC has since removed the Instagram posts.

Mark Frankel, the Social media editor of BBC News, responds:

“Yes this was before my tenure but, from memory and previous discussion with colleagues, there was no deliberate attempt to distort or mislead here.   

There was some initial concern about the swearing being audible on the video, hence the use of music.  When senior colleagues became aware of this fact they clearly decided this was not appropriate/right and removed it. 

We take trust and transparency with audiences very seriously and will never set out to present a false impression of an original story.”

How did others present the avalanche video?

CNN bleeped the curse words and The Guardian placed their “g” logo watermark on the video and only credit the source (Jost Kobusch) with a brief lower-thirds overlay mention and not in the article text itself. They do not link to, mention or embed the original YouTube video.

What is really interesting is that the original, unaltered footage by Jost Kobusch has been viewed millions times on YouTube.


Hit by avalanche in Everest Basecamp.

The takeaway

Does altering the audio track of raw footage provided by an eyewitness/victim from a breaking news scene enhance or harm your credibility?