Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Breaking News

TV stations have to make a tough choice when there’s breaking local news, and sometimes they piss people off when they break into network programming to cover the story. This happened last Sunday night.

Some viewers irate over TV’s breaking to cover wildfires

There are numerous unanswered questions about Sunday’s wildfires in Miami-Dade County — and many of them are about interrupted TV shows.


TV switchboards all over South Florida lit up Sunday night as news bulletins about wildfires in West Kendall interrupted network programming on local stations.

WPLG-ABC 10, WTVJ-NBC 6 and WFOR-CBS 4 all broke into their regular programming to show news footage of the fires sweeping toward residential areas — and left frustrated viewers wondering what happened during the time they were away from The Ten Commandments, American Dreams and Cold Case.


The interruptions wreaked varying degrees of havoc, ranging from minor distractions during the familiar Ten Commandments (being screened on ABC for the 24th time in 25 years) to the complete obliteration of the climax of the murder-mystery Cold Case on CBS.

WSVN-Fox 7 also showed the fires — but with three regularly scheduled news breaks per hour, it didn’t have to cut into its entertainment shows.

The interruptions triggered a deluge of calls to the stations as well as The Herald, where irate viewers referred to local TV programmers as ”nasty,” ”idiots and liars” and ”clearly not television fans,” among the more printable epithets.

Station executives were resigned to their fate. ”It’s always a tough call when you have breaking news,” said Lee Zimmerman, a spokesman for WFOR. “You know you’re going to make some people mad. We tried to break during a local public-service-announcement spot, but there was some miscommunication. We’re really sorry about it.”


Here’s a summary of what you might have missed:

Cold Case: Valens still has doubts about Prosser’s murder and confronts Congressman Lake. He breaks down and admits that he accidentally killed Prosser during a confrontation in an emergency stairwell that night back in 1992. Prosser told him she had found out about his incestuous relationship with his sister, but she still wanted to get married. When she tried to hug him, the agitated Lake pushed her away, and she fell down the stairs, striking her head on a pipe. But the congressman hasn’t been given a Miranda warning, so his confession is inadmissible in court, and he gets into his car and drives off.

American Dreams: Jack, who’s running for city council, is visited by his priest. The priest confronts Jack about the fact that his son J.J. has impregnated his fiancée without marrying her. The parishioners won’t like it, the priest says.

The Ten Commandments: Moses parts the Red Sea and leads the Jews out of Egypt.

Good thing they brought me up to speed on The Ten Commandments…I was wondering what happened.