[opendtv] Re: Television for disaster coverage

  • From: Tom Barry <trbarry@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 26 Dec 2005 15:06:41 -0500

For the most part these days I just get summary news from the Internet, 
digging deeper occasionally as needed.  But when something important is 
happening like 9/11 or maybe a local hurricane then I like to have the 
full bandwidth of TV video news.

However for most purposes national and world news is enough for me and I 
spend almost no time watching local news.  I can't imagine the current 
market even begins to cost justify every station having a local news crew.

- Tom

Mark Schubin wrote:
> Happy Boxing Day!
> This will be largely a rehash of things that have appeared here 
> previously, but I thought it might be worth reiterating them.
> - OTA TV vs. cable and satellite TV - When the 9/11 attacks happened, 
> the TV transmission facilities on the World Trade Center were destroyed, 
> but, except for a very brief interruption of one of the least viewed 
> station's signals, cable and satellite carriage of all stations 
> continued.  Only WCBS-TV had a working transmitter in the Empire State 
> Building (same as after the first World Trade Center attack 8.5 years 
> earlier), so they were the only station receivable off-air via antenna.  
> WCBS-TV's ratings went up, and the other stations' went down, until the 
> other stations got back on the air.  I think the only conclusion that 
> can be drawn is that the increased ratings were due to off-air viewers 
> using antennas.
> - Radio news vs. TV news -
>      - Power failures - There is no question that radio is more likely 
> than TV to be receivable during a power failure.  There are many 
> battery-operated TVs and many TV-sound radios (many models of the latter 
> are now being sold specifically for disasters), but their numbers pale 
> by comparison with portable radios.  Distasters, however, are not 
> necessarily accompanied by power failures.  When the 9/11 attacks 
> occurred, almost all of the New York market continued to be served with 
> electric power.  The same was true of our recent transit strike and the 
> recent heavy northeast snowstorm.
>      - News departments - Fewer than half (but not too much fewer than 
> half) of U.S. TV stations have news departments.  A MUCH smaller 
> percentage of U.S. radio stations do.  I have taken long drives across 
> stretches of the U.S. without being able to find any news on the car radio.
>      - Destroyed transmission facilities - When a hurricane knocks down 
> towers or floods transmitters, the public searches for whatever they can 
> get.  In some cases, that might be TV rather than radio.  I have been at 
> my relatives' home in rural Colorado when weather has knocked out all of 
> the radio translators -- and phone and Internet service -- but not the 
> TV translator.  At those times, we watch TV to find out what's going on.
>      - Pictures - TV screens can present information beyond what a 
> commentator says.  The projected path of a hurricane or tornado is 
> easily seen instantly on a map.  A list of bridge closings can be 
> presented as a rolling or crawling graphic.
>      After 9/11, a local political candidate here in New York set up a 
> TV tuned to WCBS-TV outside his campaign office and placed rows of 
> folding chairs in front of it.  The chairs were soon filled, even though 
> the TV offered nothing TV viewers couldn't get at home.  I can think of 
> more than one possible explanation.  Maybe people sought a sense of 
> community.  But maybe people who normally get their news from newspapers 
> or radio (and didn't even own a TV) felt a need to watch TV during the 
> disaster.  Other than owning a TV, I am one of the latter.
> Personally, I get most of my local news from the three daily and three 
> weekly local newspapers I read.  Secondarily, I get news from a 
> non-commercial radio news station, which, despite a sizable news 
> department, usually rehashes stories from The New York Times (and which, 
> after the post-transit-strike mediator-requested media blackout of the 
> continuing negotiations, announced that we should "stay tuned for 
> complete coverage of the media blackout").  Under normal circumstances, 
> I do not watch TV news.
> That makes me an anomalous American.  Most Americans prefer to get their 
> local news via TV  -- even Americans who prefer to get national and 
> international news via the Internet, newspapers, or other sources.  But 
> when disasters happen even I turn to TV.
> Disasters are not normal circumstances.  Neither are elections.  I tune 
> to some form of TV (sometimes our local cable-news channel, NY1) to 
> watch the results at the bottom of the screen.  I can quickly discover 
> the results I want to know about long before radio commentators get to 
> them (IF they ever bother to cover a local state-assembly or 
> city-council district race).
> Sorry for the rehash, but it seemed necessary in view of recent posts.
> Mark
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