An Engineer’s Nightmare—FCC Chairman Asked to Investigate Signal Outage

No broadcast engineer wants their station to go off the air and when it does, they usually only have to explain to station management what happened. A story on AL.COM, FCC commissioner wants probe of WHNT must be an engineer’s worst nightmare.

According the article, an equipment failure at the Huntsville, Ala., station caused local viewers to miss a segment on “60 Minutes” concerning prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Siegelman was convicted of taking a $500,000 contribution from HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to the governor’s lottery campaign in exchange for a seat on a hospital regulatory board.

Addressing a media watchdog groups in Washington D.C., FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said the FCC needed to investigate the blackout and asked FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to look into it.

The article said the WHNT-TV originally reported the failure was with the feed from CBS, but later announced it was due to a problem at the transmitter site. The WHNT-TV general manager was quoted as saying the mishap was simply “the worst possible time for a piece of machinery to break down.” He said the station’s investigation showed it was nothing more than an equipment failure and he welcomed an inquiry by the FCC. The station repeated the missing segment twice and provided a link to the program on its Web site.

If you are interested in the politics behind the interest in this outage, read FCC commissioner wants probe of WHNT. The posted comments are also interesting!

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.