Most of the time, we in the television business have the privilege to bring you entertainment, sports, or news of the day. Our work is seldom a matter of life and death, yet sometimes it is, like last Friday.
If you were in the vicinity of the tornados on Friday and were watching storm coverage from any of the local stations on Insight cable, you noticed something that probably added greatly to your anxiety. At many of the critical moments when the local TV meteorologists were identifying tornados on the ground and instructing people to take cover, they were interrupted by this Emergency Alert System announcement telling you that a tornado warning has been issued for the following counties. These announcements were intended to alert people who were watching ESPN or HBO or The History Channel, who otherwise wouldn't know that a dangerous storm might be approaching. It was never intended to interrupt the broadcast channels that are bringing much more current, more specific information to our viewers in real time. This interruption from EAS was interrupting critical, current information to tell you something generic that might have happened several minutes earlier.
I have demanded that Insight stop interrupting severe weather reports from the broadcast stations with the outdated EAS information. They claim it would be too expensive. I told them I don't care because someday lives could be lost because of this. When Insight refused to take steps to fix this problem, I asked Mayor Fischer to have the city require Insight to stop interrupting our telecasts when severe weather strikes. I asked the general managers at the other stations to join me and they have. Together we are trying to get Insight to invest in the technology to fix this problem.
I won't speak for the other stations but their story is similar to ours. At WDRB, we have made the investment. We've spent millions of dollars to provide our meteorologists with the best, most sophisticated, state-of-the-art weather equipment available today. WDRB's storm coverage was closed captioned in real time for the hard of hearing. We have hired the most educated, skilled, and experienced meteorologists in the Louisville market. Why? Because this is one thing we can do that might someday save lives. Marc Weinberg, Jude Redfield and Jeremy Kappell were on top of these storms from start to finish and they were right all day long. It terrifies me to think that some of those people who died last week might have been saved if their information from the four broadcast stations hadn't been interrupted at critical times. We may never know if some of those deaths could have been prevented, but we do know that Insight – and soon Time Warner – must make the investment to assure the EAS interruption is only to cable channels that are not providing any weather coverage and leave the broadcasters alone to do what we do far better.
This could be a very active spring so before the next storms hit, call Insight, call Mayor Fischer's office, call someone on the Metro council and demand that Insight not allow EAS announcements to disable real time information from the four big broadcast stations. No one should ever have to die because up to the second information wasn't available to them.
I'm Bill Lamb, and that's my Point of View.