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On July 13th 1985, you could watch Live Aid on 95% of the TV sets of the world. More people watched the concert than the first step on the moon in 1969 ! But depending on which chanel you choose (or had access to) you saw a very different content.
In Europe, the feed was supplied by the BBC. Being a "public - commercial free" chanel, the BBC had a lot of interviews and chatters in between the various acts. As long as the concert was running in Wembley they hosted the various VIPs in a commentary booth. After the concert they used a lounge in a West End pub in London where a party was held for the performers.
The TV feed was mono, but a stereo simulcast sound was offered on BBC radio 1.
The BBC producers did the almost the best choice at all moments, only missing the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reunion and some tiny bits from time to time.
As they also supplied a "clean feed" (without the chatters, only the concert pictures) to various TV Chanels in Europe (Germany ; Sweden ; France) we can find in these other sources some bits that are missing on the BBC : in Germany for exemple viewers saw nearly the start of Sade but suffered from a mystake during Elton John's performance which was interrupted by an insert from JFK which had Ashford and Simpson playing at the same time.
The french broadcast was a real pitty with only the "best of" acts at no time during the night without any telethon !
In the USA, the two main picture sources are ABC and MTV. Both had secured deals with "sponsors" which almost paid for the broadcast time and production costs, but required a lot of viewing time.
ABC was responsible for the terrestrial U.S. telecast, but they telecast only the final three hours of the concert with host Dick Clark. The final three hours are the network feed when the rest of the U.S. telecast was shown in syndication.
ABC aired a mono sound, but on some radios, a simulcast in stereo was available.
Orbis Communications (which would briefly become the television outlet of Carolco Pictures- -today it is known as Paramount Domestic Television) distributed Live Aid for syndication on behalf of ABC and Worldwide Sports and Entertainment.
The entire concert was, of course, simulcast in the U.S. on MTV using their own auspices. [ thanks to hiphats for these details ]
MTV was a very young chanel and only a few people had the special stereo receiver. MTV aired the concert in stereo.
So, MTV offered quite a good coverage of the event, except that they had so many advertisement slots that many artists are incomplete (when not cut live (!) by an unfortunate advertisement). But they have managed to insert some nice interviews and many VIP donation calls which is very nice (and balanced their lack of informations on-screen or by the VJ's). All in all, the MTV broadcast is at his best once London was over.
In this Top Three of the best broadcasting choice, ABC comes last by far. Bob Geldof explains in his book that many artists wanted to be in the main syndicated time, because this was the time their band would get the best audience. As Geldof was so fed up with these pressures he agreed at all requests ;-). But the result on ABC is a disaster.
It is quite wonderful up to Simple Minds when we are given to see some artists that were not present on any other feed. But then the complete non sense starts as they were forced to "keep" some of the live acts for a delayed time and play instead previously recorded acts.
I can't tell how furious I would have been in 1985 to actually see and hear the Led Zep reunion and be screened Madonna instead !
On the previous night, MTV aired what seems to be an edited version of the Australian Live Aid counterpart "Oz for Africa".
Then, in July 1995, the BBC aired a special 10 hours show with new interviews and short reports of Bob Geldof back in Africa. These little shots are really great and would justify getting this version by themsleves. The show was also aired in the states by VH1.