How an urban legend about the evils of Clear Channel is hurting free speech.
(Page 2 of 2)
As Slate media critic Jack Shafer has written in an analysis of the event, when a disaster strikes, first responders are not even supposed to call radio and television stations to tell them to alert the public. Rather, the federal Emergency Alert System (formerly the Emergency Broadcast System) allows authorities to directly break into station broadcasts to warn the public of the emergency.
The real problem that early morning in Minot, according to Shafer and others examining the incident, was that “when Minot authorities attempted to use the EAS, they failed.”
In an article from Law Enforcement News, a Minot police lieutenant acknowledges that part of the delay was “our fault.” The local police did not understand the new system, receive full training on it, or install it properly. Law Enforcement News makes clear that rather than a failure of broadcast deregulation, “what happened in Minot is a stellar example of how little thought has been given to the communication and information systems that are the heart of all public safety and critical incident response.”
The Clear Channel stations were also not unique in carrying automated late-night programming and in having few if any station employees on deck during that time of day (though Clear Channel insists there was at least one person in the Minot offices that night and that phone lines were simply jammed or malfunctioning).
Nor was this unusual. Even in the big market of San Diego, only two music stations broadcasted live programming after midnight in 2002, according to Wired. And before this automated programming was available, stations would simply shut down around midnight. Remember the “Star-Spangled Banner” sign-off?!
Thus, authorities wouldn’t even have had the option to break into station broadcasts at 2 a.m.
AND, REALLY, HOW much of a difference would it have made? Even if everything went like clockwork that night in Minot, it was still two in the morning. How many people would have been listening to the radio at that hour?
The most effective system of warning people would seem to be the tried-and-true method of blaring sirens and knocking on doors. Now, they might improve on the old methods with new media innovations, including texting everybody’s cell phones with a warning about a dangerous chemical spill.
Colleges, for instance, from Pennsylvania State University to the University of Arizona have set up registries for the administration to send students text messages if there is an emergency. Small towns like Minot could set up a voluntary registry for their citizens who wish to receive emergency notifications.
After all, if so many sign up for the Obama-Biden vice presidential publicity stunt, it’s not too much to think that there are some who might want be notified about events in which their lives could be at stake.
In the meantime, the new media marketplace is giving more choices to residents of Minot, as it is to all American media consumers. As Shafer points, radio consolidation has brought a greater diversity of programming in Minot and other towns. The number of radio formats went up from three to six after Clear Channel took over the six Minot stations.
Frequently, when independently-owned stations compete for a given audience, they tend to duplicate formats — such as new popular music. But when companies like Clear Channel own several stations, they attempt to appeal to as broad a customer base as possible, and so offer different sorts of programming on each channel.
If new localism rules are imposed, Minot and other cities and towns would experience a true threat in the silencing of controversial viewpoints. The ensuing First Amendment emergency will be no urban legend.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?