So I’m attempting to watch the Fiesta Bowl last night and I’m shocked to see that the game has been letter-boxed for my dissatisfaction. Apparently, we were having heavy rain with a little bit of hail. For those of you not familiar with Atlanta, this was a crisis of Katrina-like proportions, or at least you would get that impression if you tried to watch the first half of the Ohio State and Notre Dame game.
WSB decided to run a two-inch blocker (so people with flat screen televisions like me couldn’t block it out). On top of that they placed a colored key code so you could look at the map they placed in the lefthand corner, right under their logo, to see that it was raining. Occasionally, a thick red line would scroll across, repeating the same tired information that indicated that pretty much their entire broadcast area was under a heavy thunderstorm warning and that tornado watches had been issued. If this wasn’t enough, they decided to run a five-inch blocker bar down the lefthand side in their station’s logo colors. They also felt the need to tell me it was WSB, as if the ABC circle on the right hand side wasn’t specific enough.
A tornado watch means there has been no tornado spotted, but a watch was issued due to the weather conditions, and since heavy thunderstorms are rather noticeable, they decided to take away almost 20 percent of the screen to say that there was no tornado in the Atlanta area and there were areas of heavy rain. For some reason they thought I wouldn’t notice this by looking outside my window, and even sounded a horn occasionally to draw my attention to the crawl on the bottom the screen that repeated the same information for two hours.
I could normally just chalk this up to the fact that this weather team is overly excitable because in Atlanta heavy rain is considered an emergency and they were probably salivating over the idea of actually having a tornado to cover. The truly offensive thing, however, is they would stop running the needless letter-boxing during commercials. Not only that, they would wait for the commercial break to end so they could minimize the screen and talk over the coverage.
Now I’m all for weathermen giving us information that can save our lives, but this guy didn’t even have up-to-date news. He came on just after the ND fumble recovery in the first half to tell us “Heavy hail had been reported in Lilburn and that there was a small circular motion to a storm system.” But of course, by the time they told us that (again waiting for the game to break in), it was several minutes old and something we really didn’t need to know.
The reasons for this wholly offensive, blatant disregard for a major bowl game were two: Ad revenues and because the second-string reporter (the main guys all had the night off) wanted to get some good clips for his reel.
Mike Dreadan of WSB told me it’s station policy: “During a watch, this information is on screen during programming, but not during commercials.”
As if television “news” hadn’t sold its soul enough, a watch isn’t important to issue ad buy rebates, but it is important enough to ignore the content ABC doesn’t pay WSB to air.
So after getting really, really angry, I sent a rather insulting letter at 6:10, about midway through the second quarter. At 7:10, during halftime, this is the response I got back.
“TOO BAD NOBODY DIED, OR YOU WOULD HAVE A GUILTY CONSCIENCE…JERK “
It was probably just some college intern, but I think it speaks volume for the station as a whole. They don’t care about the people watching their progams, just so long as they don’t flip the channel during the commercials.
In an apology email Dreadan sent me today, he pretty much summed up the station’s policy this way: We don’t want to cover any of the action so let’s just make the screen as small as possible and run our cut-in during the game as briefly as possible because we don’t want to return any ad revenue.
I realize that broadcast networks give away their program free over the airwaves and they have to pay the bills somehow, but polices like this make the ads more important than the program itself. I don’t have cable right now and I only get the nine channels I can pick up through the air. That said, the only reason I watch ABC is for Lost, because even with limited choices it still isn’t worth watching.