News

Emergency Alert Tryout Gets Mixed Grades — But It Was Only a Test

11/14/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

An Emergency Alert System test that has
a Lady Gaga song (“Paparazzi”) as a lead-in is probably
guaranteed not to be overly alarming — and should
at least get any teenage girls within earshot to pay attention.

That musical touch, by DirecTV, was central to some
mocking coverage after last Wednesday’s (Nov. 9) firstever
nationwide test of the locally familiar EAS warnings,
meant to warn of severe weather or other “actual
emergencies.”

The test was conducted by the Federal
Communications Commission and the
Federal Emergency Management Agency
over TV and radio stations, cable-TV
systems, satellite TV and satellite radio.

The Wire monitored it in New York on
DirecTV and can report the Gaga tune
came before the 2 p.m. Eastern alert,
and wasn’t “blared” instead of the alert,
as the National Journal (“Thank Goodness
It Was Only a Test”) claimed.

DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer
told The Wire: “Overall, we were satisfied with the result. We transmitted the
emergency test tones and video crawl
nationwide as we received them as well
as our slide indicating this was a test.
We’ll continue to work with the FCC
and FEMA as they evaluate the results
of the test.”

There were some reports of outright
failures, such as in Oregon. NewBay Media
sister publication Television Broadcast said KVAL-TV
in Eugene, Ore., reported Oregon Public Broadcasting
was supposed to originate the alert, but its software
“could not read the specific code used for the nationwide
presidential alert.”

The FCC had asked news outlets to publicize the
alert in advance, but not to use the audible alert tones
in doing so. NBC’s Today show might not have gotten
that message, as it used the screechy tones in a
story that morning about the upcoming test. A Today
spokesman could not be reached for comment at
presstime.

TVB also said radio station KCRW-FM in Santa Monica,
Calif., inadvertently broadcast the alert message at
8 a.m.

In Washington, D.C., The Wire did not hear the tone
on one TV channel. And, on another station, one viewer
said there was a crawl but no onscreen graphic. On
another channel it seemed to go on for about the three
minutes initially planned by the FCC, later adjusted to
30 seconds.

Both the National Cable & Telecommunications Association
(which, foreseeing problems, tried to delay the
experiment) and the American Cable Association said
the EAS drill worked fine in many places and not so well
in others.

On some cable systems there were reports (by
viewers and cable companies) of set-tops not going
back to the channel or program being watched before
the test.

In New Orleans, where they take emergency warnings
seriously, Times-Picayune TV columnist Dave
Walker live-Tweeted it. At first, he said the alert “flew
by.” Then he said it came back on several minutes later:
“Is this one real? #scarednow.”
Then that one ended, he said. “Now
‘The Talk’ is on. #stillscared.”

FEMA, in a statement, said:
“This initial test was the first time
we have gotten a sense of the
reach and scope of this technology.
It was our opportunity to get a
sense of what worked, what didn’t
and additional improvements that
need to be made to the system as
we move forward. … This nationwide
test served the purpose for
which it was intended — to identify
gaps and generate a comprehensive
set of data to help strengthen
our ability to communicate during
real emergencies. Based on
preliminary data, media outlets in
large portions of the country successfully
received the test message,
but it wasn’t received by some
viewers or listeners.”

Winter TCA Tour
Packing 20 Nets
Into Only 2 Days

The cable portion of the Winter Television Critics Association
tour will be very compressed this January, with
more than 20 networks pitching new programming during
a two-day span.

The Cable & Telecommunications Association for
Marketing
, which manages the cable portion of the
nearly two-week TCA Tour, is keeping this year’s Jan.
13-14 confab to two days, rather than the traditional
three-day schedule, to avoid holding sessions on the
same day as the Jan. 15 Golden Globe Awards, according
to spokesman Jason King. As a result, several cable
networks will get less time than they’re used to.

Assembled TV critics will also feel the pinch, as sessions
will start at 8 a.m., instead of the usual 9 a.m.,
and will run virtually without breaks until 6:30 p.m.

“We have a great number of cable networks that are
excited about coming to the tour — they’re energized and
bringing top-flight talent,” King said. “There will be no
shortage of talent and programming all within two days.”


Discovery Communications, BBC America, HBO,
National Geographic Channel, Starz, Current TV, A&E
Network, Lifetime, History, Univision, Ovation
, the Viacom
networks, The Weather Channel, the Turner networks,
AMC, Sundance Channel, We TV and Hallmark
Channels
are all expected to schedule presentations or
host parties or meals during TCA.

‘Spectacular’ Makeover:
Radio City Decked Out
By Thom Filicia, HGTV

This year, those looking to get a holiday lift from the
Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes,
will get to see some of the handiwork from interior
designer Thom Filicia.

The Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Dress My Mess
alum is teaming with HGTV and Radio City Music Hall to
turn the Madison Square Garden asset into a winter wonderland.
The art deco venue’s grand foyer and lounge have
been outfi tted with custom-made wreaths and a 35-foottall
Swarovski crystal tree made with more than 10,000
crystals, among other festive accoutrements. Filicia is also
deploying varying hues of white, 40-foot metallic panels
suspended from the ceiling, columns decorated with 36-
inch diamond-shaped wreaths and warm LED lights.

To spread the holiday cheer, HGTV.com is running a Radio
City Giveaway contest, beginning Nov. 17, with the prize
package comprising round-trip airfare, tickets to the show,
ground transportation and hotel accommodations for four.

For those who don’t win or
can’t make it to Manhattan,
HGTV is framing Filicia’s festive
design with Radio City Holiday,
premiering Nov. 24 at 9 p.m.,
one of 15 specials or holidaythemed
series episodes the
Scripps service will air this season,
according to HGTV general
manager Kathleen Finch.

“As a long-time fan of the
Rockettes, it’s such an honor
and privilege to get my kicks
off-stage by dressing Radio
City Music Hall for the holidays,”
said Filicia, who served
as a guest judge on the sixth
season of Design Star and will
work on other HGTV projects in
the future.

September