From the General Manager

When weather coverage and primetime collide

Posted October 28, 2010

Many of your have written to us regarding our weather coverage and pre-empting regularly scheduled programming. Some of you give us praise. Many have not.

There is no one right answer that will satisfy everyone when life threatening weather and popular TV collide. We have a responsibility to provide life saving information to the 23 county viewing area we serve and it is our policy to be on the air during tornado warnings.

So how do we try to make everyone happy?

The Dilemma

CBS rules, based on union agreements in Hollywood, allow each station to air a program ONCE. We cannot change that fact. Believe us, we've tried. So when we have weather coverage on a collision course with our programming, here are the choices:

1) If we start the program on WRAL and then it is interrupted, only the portion that is preempted can air at another time such as overnight.

2) Similarly, if we are in weather coverage at the beginning of the program and it ends in the middle of the program, only the unseen portion can be delayed to another time.

3) If the entire show is preempted, then the full episode can be played overnight.

When we are experiencing a series of tornado warnings, and it is clear that we will be on for more than an hour, we can seriously consider the third alternative. However, if the warning looks as if it may expire soon, or it begins inside the program, we are faced with alternatives 1 or 2.

Airing programs at alternate times or channels is less than ideal for all viewers. Overnight has obvious issues. You either have to stay up into the middle of the night or have the resources to record the program. That assumes that other factors such as more weather break-ins in late night do not delay the start of the playback. The positive is that ALL viewers have a chance to see or record it.

We can move it to our second channel, WRAL2, and air it in the time period it is scheduled to air...when viewers want to see it. However, less than half of the households have access to the channel either via cable (channel 106) or off an antenna. The satellite companies have yet to agree to carry local broadcasters' second channels anywhere in the country.

CBS controls which shows they make available for viewing on the Internet.

So you make the call. It's five minutes before the start of a network program. A tornado warning is posted in the area. What do you do? Start the program on WRAL2 and the join it as soon as possible on WRAL? Play the first portion of the program in the middle of the night and join the show on WRAL when possible? Or commit to filling the entire hour, even if the warning expires sooner, so you can tell viewers to record it in the middle of the night?

It's a no-win situation. Again, we have an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) responsibility to provide life saving information to the people of the 23 counties we serve. A life in a small town isn't worth less than one in the more populated cities. We do the best we can to do the most good.

Our policy is when lives are in danger, we go on and stay on with detailed, up-to-the-second information to help those people stay safe. We know it's hard for those miles away from the heart of the storm, but someday it maybe in your neighborhood.

Thank you for watching WRAL-TV.


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  • kitten4diamonds Oct 30, 2010

    Shows have been pre-empted before due to basketball games and shown after hours. People with TWC that elect to use the DVR feature will get their shows recorded regardless of when the show airs. Peoples lives are not more important than any tv show...that's a given. If Criminal Minds could have aired at 2:45 am, that would have been fine.

  • BVFD1602 Oct 29, 2010

    *my community

  • BVFD1602 Oct 29, 2010

    I am a FIREFIGHTER that volunteers my time with zero pay to go out in the storms and protect the citizens of ny community from disaster. According to some of your complaints maybe I should get your cell phone number so I can call you and let you know I will be out to get your bone broken body out of a rain soaked crumpled vehicle AFTER my new episode of criminal minds finishes in an hour or so. Some folks need to ride with me for a week, then I am certain their whole attitude will change.

  • teachyourchildrenwell Oct 29, 2010

    One more point. Some people leave the tv on and seek shelter. They may not have a radio to take with them in the closet of wherever they are going. The audio portion is very important. If you really want to watch criminal minds or any other show, there are a bunch of websites that you can go on right now and watch them for free. Some people are plain sad.

  • Huey Oct 29, 2010

    WRAL usually makes the right decisions on the weather reporting and I thank them for it. I noticed the other night that all 3 major local stations - CBS,ABC, and NBC were airing only info on the tornado watches and warnings. Tornadoes are nothing to joke about and judging by photos posted it seems some folks in our area are lucky to still be alive. Thanks again, WRAL.

  • sillyauntdi Oct 29, 2010

    Thank you WRAL for covering dangerous weather conditions. Yes, I was disappointed that I wasn't able to see Criminal Minds Wednesday night. But, if I were in the direct line of the tornado, I would be angry and disappointed if you didn't pre-empt the regular programming to let me know. I am sure the people in the northen part of your viewing area are grateful you stayed on the air. Criminal Minds can be seen during repeats in a couple of months. Tornados are require real time coverage. Thanks again.

  • Ready2Taxi Oct 29, 2010

    "So you make the call. It's five minutes before the start of a network program. A tornado warning is posted in the area. What do you do?"

    Preempt a thirty second commercial ad segment prior to the beginning of the next program. Get on with the facts and the radar track, but don't continuously pound on the obvious. Slip the ad schedule for the day by the same amount.

    If weather situation continues, split screen the radar picture and ticker the regular programming. It's only TV, we'll get over it.

    The most ridiculous thing in local news is the stations monitoring each others weather coverage to make sure they are the last guy on air before returning to programming. At least your competition does, it's that obvious. Gives the appearance of mayhem being leveraged for marketing.

  • bradsher98 Oct 29, 2010

    Your weather people continue to repeat the same thing over and over again.Survivor was on the air when you cut away, leving us without the previews for next week. On the weekends when you have the 4 pm game, it invarialby runs to between 7
    ;30 and 8 pm. That make Amazing have to run late when some of us go to bed.

  • Sunne Oct 29, 2010

    I'm sure no one really believes a television show is more important than human life. I think the issue is the excessive reporting of the same information. While I want to stay informed, it becomes a bit annoying when the same information is repeated over and over again. I would prefer interruption of the show for a few minutes and then scrolling the warning at the bottom of the screen until there is new information. However, I understand that it is impossible to please everyone and the final decision belongs to WRAL.

  • imsosorry Oct 29, 2010

    Start charging these couch potatoes everytime they watch one of these highly anticipated shows and then they may have a say in which ones are interrupted and which ones are not ! Thanks WRAL for your weather coverage.