Houston broadcasters in full-bore public service mode


Delivering news on the basic essentials of life – what grocery stores had reopened, what hospitals were ready to receive patients and where gasoline could be purchased – was much of the broadcasting going in yesterday in the Houston-Galveston market. Galveston, located right on the Gulf of Mexico, was devastated by flooding and winds as Hurricane Ike came ashore, but inland Houston was also battered as the powerful storm passed through.

While Galveston had been largely evacuated, most people rode out the storm in the Houston area, emerging from their homes to find debris strewn everywhere, widespread power outages and considerable wind damage.

Many radio and TV stations were knocked off the air temporarily, but most quickly returned to the air as broadcasters became the main link for government and relief officials to relay information to citizens.

Cox Radio managed to keep all of its Houston stations on the air without interruption. “Our jocks turned into news-talk talent and super served our audience throughout the night and all day today,” Cox VP/Market Manager Mark Krieschen told RBR/TVBR.

Nearly five million people were without power. However, RBR/TVBR was informed by broadcasters that areas with underground utilities – as opposed to power poles – mostly kept electricity throughout the storm.

In addition to local broadcasting by TV and radio stations, Belo’s KHOU-TV (CBS) was carried nationwide on DirecTV’s Channel 361.

KHOU, ABC O&O KTRK-TV, Post-Newsweek’s KPRC-TV (NBC) and  Fox O&O KRIV-TV were all still in wall-to-wall coverage of storm damage and emergency information for local residents when RBR/TVBR checked in via the Internet yesterday.

KUHT-TV (PBS), owned by the University of Houston, took a different approach. “Throughout the storm, HoustonPBS will broadcast its regularly scheduled programs to provide comfort to families in our viewing area. Be safe,” the station said in an announcement on its website.

Houston area airports closed Friday afternoon as Hurricane Ike approached and remained closed yesterday as crews worked to restore power and clean up runways. Continental said it expected to resume service today at its George Bush International/Houston Airport (IAH) hub. Southwest Airlines resumed some service yesterday from Corpus Christi and Harlingen, but its hub at Houston Hobby Airport (HOU) remained closed at the airline said it was still assessing when flights in and out of Houston could resume.