Curious blackout affects station in Alabama

Viewers in Alabama didn’t get to see an important segment on a recent episode of “60 Minutes,” due to so-called technical difficulties. The report covered a bitter debate between Democrats and the Bush administration: the case of Don Siegelman, a former Democrat governor of Alabama who was jailed for corruption last June.

However, many Alabamans did not see the initial broadcast of the report on Feb. 24, which included new allegations that Karl Rove, President Bush’s former top adviser, waged a campaign against Siegelman. Instead, just before the segment was to start, people in the northern part of the state who were tuned in to WHNT-TV, Channel 19 in Huntsville, found this on their screen instead:

“We apologize that you missed the first segment of 60 Minutes tonight featuring ‘The Prosecution of Don Siegelman.’ It was a technical problem with CBS out of New York.”

The CBS network disputed that, saying, “There is no delicate way to put this: the WHNT claim is not true. There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters.��

With rumors that the decision was an “editorial call,” the Internet went into a state of high activity. The station later denied that it was an editorial decision, but it also changed its explanation. It was the receiver of the signal in Alabama, not the feed from CBS that caused the blackout, the station said in a statement.

On Thursday, several days after the incident, the station issued another release, this time blaming the incident on failed equipment.

“We can assure you there was no intent whatsoever to keep anyone from seeing the broadcast,” Stan Pylant, WHNT’s president, told “The Huntsville Times.”