A quartet of stations in the FCC’s home Washington DC market reminded people how critical they were during the recent snowstorm siege which beset the city, and actually closed the Commission down for about a week.
WUSA-TV chief meteorologist Topper Shutt, WRC-TV news anchor Jim Handly, WTTG-TV news director Phil Metlin, WTOP-FM morning anchor Mike Moss, and NAB Executive Vice President of Television Marcellus Alexander participated in an FCC briefing that included a six-minute video presentation.
“For viewers, NBC4 and other local stations were the eyes and ears during the blizzards. We served as the pipeline for those calling the shots for public safety and first responders to get up-to-the-minute critical information out to residents,” WRC-TV’s Jim Handly told the council. “Viewership was enormous. It was a captive audience, hungry for the latest information and live pictures. For most, the local broadcast stations were their first and only source for immediate information from emergency declarations to safety tips.”
WTOP-FM’s Mike Moss noted that the station went to considerable expense to cover the story both in flat out costs ($50K) and sacrificed business ($140K). “WTOP broadcast live emergency information 24-7,” he said. “But this is nothing new to WTOP. We made the same commercial sacrifices to provide breaking coverage of Hurricane Isabel and its legacy power outages, the attacks of 9-11 and the frightening sniper and anthrax scares that chilled Washington. For well over 100,000 people who lost their power in the storm, WTOP was a lifeline. That’s not what I say. That’s what they told us.”
WUSA is owned by Gannett; WRC by GE/NBCU; WTTG by Fox/News Corp.; and WTOP by Bonneville.
RBR-TVBR observation: The FCC shut down, but local broadcasters facing the exact same weather conditions did not – instead, they continued to serve their local market. Further, local broadcasters served their local market in a way that is simply impossible for a satellite or internet service. The FCC should think long and hard about this before it starts plundering broadcast spectrum.