Radio becomes even more important as an emergency voice in February 2009.
That is the date when television switches off their analog transmitters.
Television users will be left with a choice of upgrading their television to HD, buying a converter or using cable.
Since most people watch on cable few will pay attention to the change.
Without a cable hook up or converter your old analog TV is worthless.
It has the potential to be life and death issue.
The only time it will matter is when the cable is out, during a storm or power outage.
Any attempt at tuning to analog TV channels such as 2-13 will come up empty.
The only place to find emergency information on that day will be local radio.
Hopefully the local radio station will be doing more than playing Sean Hannity repeats.
Most people are pretty unclear about the TV changes taking place.
They rely on cable for their TV service today.
So, what will happen if a serious storm or disaster takes out the cable and leaves a city with a couple of radio stations that have no news room?
This scenario isn’t limited to smaller towns. Big cities are extremely vulnerable.
Take Houston, less than sixty miles from the Gulf Of Mexico.
Houston is sitting duck for a major Hurricane.
If the TV stations are off, there is only one radio station in the entire city with a decent sized news room. Just ONE. And that is an AM station that carries mostly syndicated programming.
Since we know from Arbitron that most radio listening is done on FM, how would people even know to look on the AM band for news?
Have you rented a car lately?
Most of the time the AM radio has been untouched. That should tell us something.
AM radio is not top of mind, if people know of it at all.
No station has stepped into the void and built a news reputation on FM in Houston.
It is doubtful that even one Houston FM station has more than two people in their news room. I’m being generous here.
Shall we take a guess as to how many Houston FM stations have a working newsroom?
Not to pick on Houston, we could be talking about most markets, large and small.
Few have any information service on FM outside of their NPR station.
Every city needs a well publicized emergency plan that defines the radio and television outlets that will provide official information during emergencies.
Remember I said this is a life and death matter?
There should be Plan A, B, C, down to little plan Z.
If you hold the license, you accept the responsibility.
It’s that simple.
Do you recall what happened in New Orleans during Katrina?
Houston may have narrowly missed the same fate when Rita moved just to its east that same year.
This is the stuff the FCC should be concerned about.
Have any FCC Commissioners actually worked inside a radio or television facility?
They seem too worried about the price of XM/Sirius service and not concerned about the next Hurricane.
This isn’t about politics.
It’s what holding a license is all about in the first place.
You never really own it, remember.
The license isn’t filed on Wall Street, you still do that down on K Street.
Maybe they could use some radio and TV people on that FCC.
We’ll have no trouble coming up with names for them if they like.