Beep, beep, beep.
A thunderstorm in Minnesota? I'll alert the media.
I'm done with WCCO. The CBS affiliate in Minnesota ruined its Tony Awards programming last night with a never-ending Severe Thunderstorm Warning map and scroll, and three loud beeps repeated every 30 minutes, drowning out the show's audio to draw our attention to the impending "rain and thunder emergency."
Thank you, WCCO, for replicating in my living room the true Broadway experience: getting boiling mad when your boorish rowmate's cell phone goes off during the big number.
Red alert. Death Star approaching.
Severe weather is to WCCO what terror alerts were to the Bush administration. No one would begrudge WCCO for warning its viewers about actual impending doom, but by now we know the station, like the Bush administration, is the boy who cried red alert.
When WCCO says "thunderstorm warning," what it means is "you're going to get a little wet." Hell, your basement might even get moist. Oh, the humanity.
"Local weather" is the way most U.S. stations get viewers, so in the era of the ever-eroding TV audience, these stations wrongly believe that a little manufactured danger is the way to go.
But if you're in the business of providing your viewers with quality programming, and you ruin that experience, what are the odds the viewers will come back? More than that: if there is an actual emergency, the constant message that tells us "we're in trouble" is a little more than irritating: it's irresponsible.
It's all about the Benjamins
So let's pretend for a minute that there was actual danger (well, lightning did cause small fires last night, according to WCCO's terrible website). We can presume the people inside their homes watching the Tony Awards were OK. If drivers were concerned, they could turn to their radios ("the everywhere medium") or mobile phones to get the latest scoop.
The only thing left that people want to watch live (the important thing for Nielsen ratings and ad revenue) anymore is "live programming." If you were a WCCO/CBS advertiser who bought a spot to run during the Tonys, wouldn't you want a refund if this is what it looked like?
WCCO is a repeat offender. I've never missed an episode of the Late Show with David Letterman - ever - which means I get to sit through WCCO's obnoxious test of the Emergency Alert System, which only happens during Letterman's first guest.
Another scroll, more beeping, and a recorded audio message to boot. What would Kiefer say?
Interesting fact: the emergency alert system was set up by Harry Truman in 1951, and has only ever been used once (in 1971) and it was by mistake. The system wasn't even used when terrorist crashed planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.
Here in Winnipeg, we're nothing but "spillover media" to WCCO. I'm sure the good people at WCCO could care less if we watch their programming, as evidenced by their weather map, which shows the world ending at the Canadian border.
So, what can we do about this?