NAB President Eddie Fritts on Wednesday asked Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt to address the importance of allowing local TV stations to keep broadcasting during severe storms.
As tornadoes whirled into the Detroit area on May 9, cable operators overrode all their channels, including the local TV stations, with basic weather information provided by a system the federal government requires them to use.
"Only those television viewers who received their broadcast signals over-the-air, rather than through cable, were actually able to view the detailed and timely weather information being provided by Detroit broadcasters during this recent emergency," Fritts wrote to Witt.
NAB says FCC rules do not require cable operators to override local broadcasters during a local emergency, only during a national one. What's more, cutting off viewers' access to their local TV stations is a public disservice, Fritts wrote.
Cable operators disagree but plan to change their systems to appease unhappy viewers.