Landrieu Lauds Broadcasters

Broadcasters were an essential part of New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at the Washington Policy & Politics Breakfast Monday morning.
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Broadcasters were an essential part of New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at the Washington Policy & Politics Breakfast Monday morning.

"Many of you have been down and put your own boots on the ground, or sent your own people down, and I can't tell you how much we appreciate it," Landrieu said, as she recounted the story of the flooding and devastation in her hometown.

Even now, Landrieu said, the details of the story are not well enough known in Washington. But without the media, she said it wouldn't have been known at all.

"If it wouldn't have been for the broadcasters, I'm not sure this story would have gotten out," she said. "They were the essential first, first responders. I'm sure the police will tell you that if not for the media, they couldn't have done their jobs."

Landrieu talked about the chaotic evacuation of New Orleans after the storm surge, praising local broadcasters – many of whom also lost their homes to flooding – for helping to maintain lines of communication in the days just after the storm.

THE PROPOSAL

The senator, who chairs the Senate's Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery that oversees FEMA, is filing legislation this week that would officially designate broadcasters as first responders.

She cited the example of one Mississippi station that had gone to great efforts to secure fuel for its generator so it could stay on the air, only to be told by a low-level local official that the broadcasts didn't represent an "essential service."

Landrieu said those attitudes are mistaken.

"The people I represent, the only people they wanted to hear were the people on their radios and their televisions, because they could get the true story of what was going on," she said of her bill.

"When you show up at the disaster, you'll be on the list," she promised broadcasters. "You're entitled to food and water and emergency supplies so you can stay in the disaster zone," she said of the proposals in her legislation.

THE PROGRAM

Landrieu praised the local broadcasters in her area for the responsibility they showed in the days after the storm, sorting out facts from unconfirmed rumors. She says broadcasters in other parts of the country can learn from the Louisiana experience.

"One day a tsunami is going to hit Seattle, and one day a hurricane will hit Long Island, and all hell is going to break loose, and you guys are going to be there," she said.

Landrieu's "First Response Broadcasters Act" also proposes a federal grant program designed to get broadcasters to think ahead of time about what would happen in their areas if disaster hits. She said the program would include funding to help broadcasters acquire and install backup transmitters and generators to help them stay on the air if disaster strikes.

"Broadcasters, you all are my heroes," Landrieu said, which drew applause from the audience.

She also drew applause when she reiterated her opposition to the proposed XM-Sirius merger, saying she'll work to make sure it does not win federal approval.

The breakfast was sponsored by Online Video Service, which offers webcasts of public affairs events, including a live webcast of Monday's breakfast.

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