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A Post-Storm Update From Paul Rotella

'A lot of the ancillary business functions of the industry have been put on the back burner for now'

In the aftermath of Sandy and then a nor’easter, New Jersey broadcasters continue to play a role in recovery even as they face their own challenges. RW touched base again with Paul Rotella, president and CEO of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association.

We spoke last week, only a few days after the first storm hit. How have stations been doing since we last spoke?

They were briefly out during the transition from AC to DC power, but it was a minimal disruption in services.

A vast majority of our stations are still running on generators. A vast majority of our station groups are huddled in the central location. I think they’re working as efficiently as possible. But audiences don’t know that. They’re not missing a beat.

By and large, whether it takes generators, gasoline, engineers, office, on-air talent, support staff, producers, GMs, everyone’s pitching in and doing what has to be done to keep the stations on the air.

Are other operations returning to normal?

The radio stations and the television stations have been all up and running and dealing with their situations as they need to. They’re doing a terrific job of staying on the air. The primary concern is to stay on the air, and they’re doing it magnificently, but a lot of the ancillary business functions of the industry have been put on the back burner for now. And for a very good reason. Our job as first informers and first responders takes precedence.

What are you hearing broadcasters and listeners say about the storm?

We were hit in a way that we’ve never been hit in over a hundred years, since the beginning of broadcast, probably. It’s impacting lives. Our broadcasters are in the same position as the people they’re serving. Our drives for food, clothing, blankets, medicine, are affecting them as well. They’re not just asking, they’re also receiving. It’s very close to their hearts, very personal commitments.

How do you think the storm has affected your relationship with your audiences?

Even though New Jersey broadcasters have always helped to preserve life and limb with catastrophes, I think this last storm helped to make our unique bond with our audiences even stronger. It’s a massive effort that’s going on in the aftermath of Sandy, and it’s just started. It’s going to take years.

To get everyone back to where they were, it’s going to take a Herculean effort, and radio and television broadcast is going to be a very, very important to getting this monumental task done. Countless radio stations are now actually doing food drives, doing clothing drives, helping their communities. We are now in a rescue and recovery mode, and we will continue to do what we have to do help our listeners. We’ll keep going.