Noted with CommLawBlog approval: TV anchor Nancy Naeve gives churlish audience members what for.
When it comes to emergency alerts about, e.g., dangerous, fast-approaching, weather conditions, a broadcaster’s lot is not enviable. It is often difficult simply to marshal, in very short order, the important details and reduce them to reliable words and images that can be grasped quickly and accurately by the audience. There are regulatory concerns: even the best-intentioned broadcaster doing his or her utmost to get the word out to the public can be unpleasantly whacked after the fact by the FCC for an inadvertent failure to comply 100.000% with certain regulatory requirements. (You can find examples here, here, here, here or here.) And let’s not forget members of the audience, occasionally ungracious and unappreciative, who call to complain when emergency reports interrupt their favorite program.
In other words, broadcasters might have considerable reason not to jump at the opportunity to break into their programming with bad news about bad weather.
Still, emergency alerts save lives and property. It is difficult to conceive of a public service of greater importance. And despite the difficulties and risks to their own operations, broadcasters have historically stepped up to the plate over and over again to serve their audiences in this valuable way.
We say all this because the video clip below caught our attention this morning.
It appears that a tornado blew through Sioux County, Iowa. Nearby KSFY-TV, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, dutifully broke into its regular programming to get the word out. At least one woman confirmed on camera that, thanks to the station's alerts, she had reached out to family members who were apparently able to get to shelter in time. And yet, other audience members complained, heatedly and repeatedly, about the fact that the alerts interrupted their favorite shows. The next day an anchor during the early morning news reacted with an eloquent extemporaneous defense of the station:
Is it good business to criticize the station’s audience? Of course not – that’s like biting the hand that feeds you. So big CommLawBlog props to KSFY anchor Nancy Naeve, for speaking the hard truth to short-sighted viewers. Broadcasters provide entertainment, but they also provide public service, and the latter is often (as it was for KSFY) of considerably greater value to the public. For telling it like it is, Ms. Naeve – thanks.