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5/12/2006 08:00:00 PM Eastern

NAB: $240,000 in Gear Lost to Sticky Fingers

Las Vegas' criminal element apparently has an eye for cutting-edge broadcasting technology.

At last month's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) confab, three high-definition cameras, valued at more than $50,000 each, were stolen from the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) in a matter of hours on the Thursday before the show, as exhibitors and convention workers set up booths to display vendors' wares.

Ikegami had a $55,000 HDN-X10 disk-based HD camera and a $34,000 Canon hi-def lens lifted from its booth. Shotoku had a $50,000 Sony high-def camera swiped. Hardest hit was New York City-based dealer Abel CineTech, which lost a Panasonic hi-def Varicam worth $72,000, along with a $27,000 Panasonic standard-def camera and a $4,000 Panasonic MiniDV camera.

“When you pay all this money for a high-end convention like NAB, you figure the least thing that could happen is that there would be proper security,” says CineTech VP Richard Abel, whose cameras were still boxed, shrink-wrapped and stacked on a pallet when they were taken.

NAB spent more than $350,000 on security this year, hiring 1,100 guards, says spokesman Dennis Wharton. While the dollar value of the items stolen this year is significant, Wharton concedes, the 17 thefts this year are down from 19 in 2005 and 31 in 2004.

Happily, some attempted thefts were foiled. LVCC security caught two men loading several large flat-screen monitors into a car outside the convention center in the early hours of April 28. And the day before, NL Technology President Jim McKain gave chase to a man who'd swiped a $100,000 Ikegami hi-def camera system from NL's booth while a female accomplice distracted McKain with “suspicious questions.”

“He broke into a run, and so did I,” says McKain. “He got out to Paradise [Rd.], but he knew I was chasing him, so he put the camera down and ran across traffic to get away.”

(At least he put it down gently; the camera was unharmed.)

When McKain returned to the LVCC and notified a security guard, however, he got little sympathy. Says McKain, “He started laughing at me.”

Weather Warriors

Parodies of political attack ads are a staple on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. But last week, Comedy Central's faux newscast showcased a new variation: the local weather-team attack ad.

The ad was not a Daily Show production but a perhaps overzealous sweeps-period promo from NBC affiliate WTWO Terre Haute, Ind., criticizing the weather coverage on its rival, CBS affiliate WTHI.

“Some stations say they have the most reliable weather coverage,” the promo's narrator intones. “But let's review the facts.” The ad goes on to tout the 45-plus years of combined experience of the WTWO weather team and belittle the WTHI team's mere 30 years.

The ad also mocks the inadequacy of WTHI's Doppler radar, which is located in downtown Terre Haute, thus leaving thousands of residents vulnerable within a radar “dead zone.” At www.dopplerdeadzone.com, WTWO boasts that its own Doppler system is located safely in a cornfield. (“My god,” said Stewart. “If you live in Terre Haute, you have to look out your window.”)

Turns out the promo got on Stewart's radar after a staffer on Daily spinoff The Colbert Report passed it along to Daily Show writers.

But WTWO management was perplexed to see it get such national play. “This was a short, silly segment,” says General Manager Duane Lammers. “It is just a normal part of our doing business.”

The next day, the Terre Haute Tribune-Star quoted Lammers saying that Stewart “must have been pretty hard up for material … I didn't quite understand the point.”

Stewart countered with an “apology” that dinged the station again over the ads and knocked Lammers' decision last January not to air controversial NBC series Book of Daniel.

Over at WTHI, General Manager Todd Weber was amused, both by the Stewart bit and by the ads. And why not: WTHI is the market's top-rated news station.

Weber declined a Daily Show request for a follow-up interview, however. “We are going to focus on what we do: the news,” he says.

That, and staying off Jon Stewart's radar.

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