Discovery Goes on Border Patrol

Discovery Channel on Dec. 5 will shine a light on the controversial issue of immigration with documentary series Border Live, offering live footage from border crossings between the United States and Mexico.

Lilia Luciano

Lilia Luciano

The six-part series, hosted by CNN special correspondent Bill Weir and featuring local TV news journalist Lilia Luciano, will originate live from a New York studio, tracking stories as they unfold from the U.S.-Mexico border. The show’s crews will be embedded in the field with officials and special agents at key border sites from points in Arizona to the Rio Grande Valley and points east, Discovery said.

Luciano, an investigative reporter at Tegna’s KXTV in Sacramento, Calif., with a deep understanding of border issues, recently spoke to Multichannel News about the series, its potential effect on the immigration debate and the likely perils of filming live at the border.

MCN: What prompted you to get involved in this show?
Lilia Luciano:
It’s only the most interesting topic in the nation. As a journalist, I have covered the border before, and I think it’s an extremely intricate and difficult story to tell because there are so many people and issues involved, so to have the opportunity to actually embed, spend time there and develop stories and connect with people on a very human and intimate level is a real privilege.

MCN: What do you want viewers to get from Border Live?
To me, the most important thing is to walk away with perhaps a better understanding of what brings people here with as much empathy and compassion with every human that we feature, whether it’s migrants, asylum seekers or people working in border and law enforcement. To me, the most learning comes from connecting at that very human level. We get to spend days going back and forth and understanding what drives people to the border and how their lives are impacted by policy or whatever actions happen at the border.

MCN: Does the show come at a perfect time, given the current immigration debate, and how will the show look to shape that discussion?
We’re not in the business of shaping opinion or having any agenda to push. That’s the beauty of being on the Discovery Channel — it’s not a news show, so therefore people may be even more open and trusting, and understand that this is as close to the reality that’s going on there as possible. I think we’re walking in completely transparent and curious, with no agenda and no effort to find a story that will help craft a particular narrative, but just walking in and getting to know people and asking questions.

MCN: Are you concerned about the unpredictability of the show’s live aspect and the potential of violence during filming?
Part of what I’m doing is documentary-style and immersive — my stories are going to be ones that I will be putting together and documenting throughout this time. There will be some live aspects, but we’re journalists. I’ve worked on breaking news, so I think live allows for the opportunity to be completely transparent and react as you go. That is the truest way of connecting with the audience.


Live National Football League and college football coverage helped ESPN tackle the top spot in the primetime ratings from Oct. 29 to Nov. 25, with 3.1 million total viewers, easily besting Fox News Channel’s second-place mark of 2.4 million, according to Nielsen.

Fox News was the top choice for all viewers on a 24-hour basis with 1.4 million viewers, topping Hallmark Channel’s 1.1 million viewers.

Fox News was also the most-watched news network among total viewers both in primetime and on a 24-hour basis, according to Nielsen. All three major news networks — CNN, MSNBC and Fox News — were up in primetime audience from 2016’s presidential election coverage, with CNN generating the biggest gain at 31%, followed by MSNBC and Fox News at 6%, Nielsen reported.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.