Southern California Broadcasters Multicast Additional Fire Coverage

All of this was a great example of how DTV and multicasting can serve the public in times of emergency. When people evacuating from their homes were asked what they were taking, no one mentioned a TV or radio but laptops were often mentioned.
Author:
Publish date:

I was in Los Angeles early this week when fires broke out throughout much of Southern California, threatening homes and prompting evacuations. As they have done in the past, major TV broadcasters replaced their regular programming with wall-to-wall coverage of the fires.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I watched the DTV coverage over the air on my laptop using a USB HDTV tuner and an indoor antenna. KABC, along with KCBS and its sister station KCAL had spectacular HDTV shots of the fire from their helicopters. When the network affiliates broke away for sporting events Sunday evening, KCBS continued fire coverage on KCAL. KABC continued coverage on its digital Channel 7.2 and KNBC continued coverage on its 4.2 (Weather Plus) and 4.4 (News Raw) multicast channels. Monday, KABC moved its regular programming to 7.2 while continuing fire coverage on 7.1. Tuesday morning KNBC aired the Today show on 4.2 while it continued fire coverage on 4.1.

All of this was a great example of how DTV and multicasting can serve the public in times of emergency. When people evacuating from their homes were asked what they were taking, no one mentioned a TV or radio but laptops were often mentioned. I wonder how many of these people knew that with an inexpensive USB stick they could have monitored the progress of the fires wherever they were.

During coverage of the fire on KABC 7.2 one night, I heard a reporter describing the helicopter shot on the air to a fire captain at a command center. The fireman was watching channel 7, but was confused because he wasn’t seeing the helicopter shots. TV stations listed the cable channels where the multicast feeds could be seen, but rarely mentioned they were available over the air on DTV other than to state the extra coverage could be seen on “digital Channels 4.2 or 7.2.” Viewers that already had ATSC tuners would have understood what that meant, but viewers that hadn’t used a DTV tuner or set with an antenna probably didn’t.

Now that the fires appear to be dying down, it seems like an ideal time to reintroduce viewers to free over-the-air digital TV, with more channel choices, more emergency information, and spectacular 16:9 footage, all available for about $100 on their laptop. Just as radios are an essential part of a home emergency kit, a USB tuner should be considered an essential accessory for laptops. There is no need for residents to be left in the dark when the cable goes out in the middle of a fire!