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Kniowski: At Our Core, Broadcasters Are ‘First Informers’

She reminds lawmakers about radio/TV’s role

Diane Kniowski Broadcasters emphasized their role as “first informers” on Capitol Hill today.

Emergency communications is the subject of a hearing of a House subcommittee. Among those speaking was Diane Kniowski, president and general manager of three TV stations in western Michigan.

She presented lawmakers with a summary of industry themes that have become familiar: radio and TV as sources of vital emergency information; broadcasting’s role when power, phones and Internet go out; its participation in Emergency Alert System.

Speaking of events around Hurricane Sandy, she said: “WABC(TV) in New York prepared in advance for the storm. They shored up its infrastructure, inspecting and securing rooftop and tower antennas, and testing backup transmission paths.

“On the radio side,” she continued, “the engineering team at Clear Channel’s radio stations moved backup generators and reserve transmitters into the area. They implemented longstanding fuel contracts, and gathered satellite phones and mobile housing for staff. As the storm knocked out other means of communication in many parts of the tri-state area for nearly a week, broadcasters were ready for the storm’s fallout.”

She also talked about her stations’ activities ahead of a blizzard in early 2011 in Michigan.

“Three days prior to the storm, we began alerting the public on what areas would be hit and what essentials were needed in the home. We sent teams into the field, keeping abreast of what was happening. We stayed on the air for three to four days until the roads were cleared and we knew there was no loss of life. I still remember the many letters we received from viewers, thanking us.”

And after reviewing what EAS is and how it works, Kniowski noted: “Clearly, EAS participation is an important component of our public service and broadcasters are proud of our pivotal role. Although participation in EAS on the local level is technically voluntary, virtually every radio and television station in the country participates, and we do so enthusiastically. All EAS equipment is purchased by broadcasters at their own expense, and all stations must test their EAS systems on a weekly and monthly basis.”

She added that her stations conduct surprise emergency rehearsals four times per year to help identify problems.