NBC's decision to go ahead with a realistic, white-knuckle plane crash segment--a parody of Lost--to begin its Emmy awards telecast Sunday night drew flak for airing the same day as the plane crash in Lexington, Ky., that killed 49 people.
Steve Langford, VP and GM of WAVE, the NBC affiliate in Louisville, said he had no notice of the opening, and would have cut to a break if he had. "It came as a surprise," he said, adding that he planned to contact NBC and ask them why after he got through answering e-mail complaints and returning calls personally.
He said the complaints were building as local radio got hold of the story. Did he feel unfairly suprised. "Without question, given the local tragedy, we should have been notified. Had we been notified, believe me, we would not have carried it."
Langford said the he has had a bout a dozen complaints, contrasting that with the 3,000 he got for airing controversial drama Book of Daniel.
Should the network have aired the crash intro at all? "The network has to do waht it has to do. It has a lot of markets. I'm only concerned with what I can control, and I could have controlled some additional heartache locally had we been able to know the content of the opening scene."
Was he surprised at getting no notice. "Generally, the network does not contact us on any content issues. It's very rare so I guess I'm not surprised. It's a big network. This was most applicable for Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green and Paducah, and it certainly would have helped for all of us to be notified."
WLEX Lexington, the NBC affiliate there, was airing a recap of its daylong crash coverage taht led, without commercial break, into the opening of the Emmys, which made it particularly jarring said, said WLEX President and GM Tim Gilbert told B&C. He was at home watching the telecast with his family and was "stunned" by the introduction.
Gilbert got an apology from NBC, but still said the network had been either ignorant and incompetent," in not changing the oppening, suggesting he thought it was a case of somebody not connecting the dots between the opening and the tragedy, though he said that did not excuse the lapse.The jarring opening was fodder for radio talk show conversation Monday morning outside of Kentucky, and for blogging not long after the skit aired featuring host Conan O'Brien dropping Zelig-like into various TV shows, starting with Lost.
WMAL AM in Washington reported in an online poll that many in the area had been offended and asked viewers whether they thought NBC should not have run it, or if it did, whether it should have warned stations.
Stations' control over and advance warning about network content has become a big issue in the wake of the FCC's indecency crackdown. It is one of the reasons that the affiliate associations--all but Fox--have given for supporting an FCC review of several profanity findings against stations for cuss words on network shows. The FCC makes its oral argument for that review in a New York court Tuesday.