If it bleeds it ledes.
The only time I watch the local news is election season just for the ads from the candidates.
From the inbox
I saw your question to me on FB and did a little research before I responded.
“What is going on” is this:
I could not find any specific FCC rule or regulation that REQUIRES a broadcast television station to break into programming when there is severe weather. However, stations are mandated to serve the public interest in order to keep their licenses.
Broadcast television stations can basically break into regular programming at any time, for any reason. At WNEP, we have done so for breaking news events – such as significant developments in the Luzerne County Corruption case or Jerry Sandusky’s guilty verdict, or last year’s flooding. As far as I know, WNEP does not have a specific policy regarding when we will break in for news. It’s a case-by-case basis in terms of whether we will break in and how long we will stay on the air.
For severe weather, however, WNEP does have a specific policy and that is to break into programming when the National Weather Service issues a Tornado Warning (http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/#warning1 ) for any part of our viewing area, which, as you pointed out, is rather large. A tornado warning indicates either that a tornado has been spotted or that Doppler Radar has detected rotation in a storm system. In other words, if there’s a tornado warning in effect, then the threat of an actual tornado is very real. WNEP’s policy dictates that we stay on the air continuously until the tornado warning is either lifted or expires. Because we cover such a large area, we’re often dealing with situations where a tornado warning in one county may expire while warning in other counties are still in effect. If the first tornado warning is in central PA (e.g. Williamsport), we could be on the air for an extended time if the tornado warnings follow the system as it moves east. There have been occasions where one warning has expired and we’ve returned to programming only to cut in again a short time later because another tornado warning has been issued.
So, the answer to your question “what is going on” is that WNEP will always interrupt programming for a tornado warning because, when lives are in danger, we feel it serves the public’s interest to do so. This has been WNEP’s policy for several years and is, I believe, pretty standard stuff for broadcast stations that have news departments. Stations that don’t, rely on crawls.
Just as an FYI – and to your point about us “not covering politics,” we received A LOT more emails and phone calls when we broke into the Penn State game than we did a few nights ago when we broke into Michelle Obama’s speech at the convention.