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June 10, 2015 11:26 pm  #1


First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

CityNews was interrupted several times Wednesday for what I believe was the first actual official use of the new Emergency Alert system that came into effect in April. While I suppose it was effective, it was also kinda weird. The message interrupted City's The 5 newscast, with a large red banner in the middle of the screen that obliterated several in progress reports. A very off putting robotic voice read the words as they crawled by, which in this case was a warning about possible tornados in certain parts of City's viewing area. 

Meteorologist Adam Stiles would later explain to viewers that the process was completely out of the station's control and it could easily happen again anytime.  

I turned to several other TV newscasts, but no one else seemed to be doing them and I didn't hear anything similar on local radio, beyond the usual host reading Environment Canada warnings. I suppose the first big test worked, at least on City, but it was certainly very odd and you might have thought it would have appeared - as the late great Mark Dailey might have said - Everywhere. 

 

June 11, 2015 12:25 am  #2


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

Nothing new. This is the second time this has happened on CityNews.
 

 

June 11, 2015 6:33 am  #3


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

I got a warning while watching a movie on Shomi. No robotic voice, just a scrolling warning, I thoguht the world was ending.

 

June 11, 2015 7:46 am  #4


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

RadioActive wrote:

CityNews was interrupted several times Wednesday for what I believe was the first actual official use of the new Emergency Alert system that came into effect in April. While I suppose it was effective, it was also kinda weird. The message interrupted City's The 5 newscast, with a large red banner in the middle of the screen that obliterated several in progress reports. A very off putting robotic voice read the words as they crawled by, which in this case was a warning about possible tornados in certain parts of City's viewing area. 

Meteorologist Adam Stiles would later explain to viewers that the process was completely out of the station's control and it could easily happen again anytime.  

I turned to several other TV newscasts, but no one else seemed to be doing them and I didn't hear anything similar on local radio, beyond the usual host reading Environment Canada warnings. I suppose the first big test worked, at least on City, but it was certainly very odd and you might have thought it would have appeared - as the late great Mark Dailey might have said - Everywhere. 

I heard some emergency alerts on 680 News around 5:30 p.m., and what sounded like the tail end of one on 640 at around the same time.


"Life without echo is really no life at all." - Dan Ingram
 

June 11, 2015 10:50 am  #5


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

CBC Toronto's 5:00 p.m. newscast got replaced by a completely red screen with an ominous air-raid style sound effect and printed warnings. I immediately went to the window expecting to finally see Armageddon.

 

 

June 11, 2015 10:54 am  #6


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

I would love to see numbers, and there's probably no way they could be reliably generated other than by Rogers or Bell, but how many people, when this 'alert' happens in the middle of their newscast, turn to another newscast for 'breaking news'.    

IMHO the danger of this 'breaking in' during a newscast, is it makes the 'news' look like they don't know what's happening or what's supposed to be important.  I'm all for breaking in during Two broke girls or whatever, but there should be a way around this.
 


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

June 11, 2015 12:16 pm  #7


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

ig wrote:

I would love to see numbers, and there's probably no way they could be reliably generated other than by Rogers or Bell, but how many people, when this 'alert' happens in the middle of their newscast, turn to another newscast for 'breaking news'.    

IMHO the danger of this 'breaking in' during a newscast, is it makes the 'news' look like they don't know what's happening or what's supposed to be important.  I'm all for breaking in during Two broke girls or whatever, but there should be a way around this.
 

I tend to agree. It makes sense to interrupt entertainment programming with something breaking or imminent, like a tornado. But any newscast worth its salt would be continuously updating or centering on the warning and thus you'd think the alert would be redundant. If they're not doing updates, then you're watching the wrong news. (Although to be fair, the system is controlled by Pelmorex and they can't possibly be expected to know what show is on every channel when they choose to interrupt them.)

And there's another issue. A CRTC spokeswoman told me a few months ago that the alerts can take over any programming at any time, but it's up to the individual station or network as to how they appear on screen. But shouldn't something this important be uniform everywhere? I can't imagine why they allowed that. 

As to switching stations, I have to admit by the third time it aired, I was ready to look elsewhere. According to the CRTC flak, the system is supposed to have the alerts aired on every channel in the danger area, regardless of where you look, even on, say, an A&E or a CBS affiliate. So if it works as it's supposed to, you're not supposed to be able to tune it out even if you do change stations. But I didn't find that to be the case on Wednesday. While City was airing the big red banner, CBC was on with its normal newscast and so was Global. They may have done them separately, but I didn't see it. 

Finally, Shaw Direct sent its customers a notice a few months before this went into effect, telling them that their receiver would lock into place and couldn't be changed during an alert. That seemed insane to me then and it does now. But then Shaw had to appeal to the CRTC for an extension on the April deadline, because there were still too many old unaddressable receivers in their system and they couldn't deliver the message to everyone.  The CRTC reluctantly gave them six months to fix the problem. 

Last edited by RadioActive (June 11, 2015 12:23 pm)

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June 11, 2015 2:15 pm  #8


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

I was listening to Bill Carroll and there were several interruptions after 5:00.

What was interesting was that nobody on air was aware they were being interrupted.  After one announcement, Bill and Chris were trying to figure out if they were actually on the air.    Then, after another interruption, they proceeded to explain what was going on and, sure enough, that was interrupted.

I really do wish they used better voice synthesis.  My android phone is much much better and is actually rather easy to understand.  
 

 

June 11, 2015 2:21 pm  #9


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

There's a great line "To a guy with a hammer, every problem is a nail" and that seems to be the way this was thought out.  I understand if it's a music station, but if the station itself is a news/talk outlet, or the tv station is in the middle of a newscast, it should be a condition of licence that they pass the bulletin infomration along in a timely fashion, and log the fact that they did, but to just have the cable company or broadcaster decide to unplug the feed for 20 seconds isn't only ridiculous, it's insulting.  


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

June 11, 2015 3:07 pm  #10


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

Larry Fedoruk devoted the first half hour of his show on CKTB to this very thing Thursday. He was apparently inundated with angry tweets and emails from people who were pissed off by the constant interruptions. The listener complaints ranged from the robotic voice that some found hard to understand to the fact that, because the station's signal goes a long way, the alerts weren't meant for their immediate area, yet they kept hearing them. And some who were in the affected places were perturbed that the sun was shining when the weather warnings came and there was no sign of anything coming.

Fedoruk worries that if those in control of what he called "a new toy" continue to use it the way they did here, people will simply stop taking it seriously and tune out the message altogether, perhaps on the one occasion when something really is imminent. 

Larry agreed with some of the tweets, but explained it was out of his control and wondered if the system needs a lot of tweaking - especially since he spent a good part of his Wednesday show constantly updating the weather, essentially making the alert interruptions totally redundant. 

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June 11, 2015 8:07 pm  #11


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

Residents of small-town Ontario were promised "you will have your own radio station".  If someone isn't around to explain where the weather-related risk is most severe (and where it is less intense) when these messages kick in, the risk isn't that they will ignore the message but rather that they will return to the radio station with a strong signal relied on by their grandparents & parents, and like family, will just leave the dial at 1010 CFRB



 

Last edited by Kilgore (June 11, 2015 8:28 pm)

 

June 11, 2015 10:41 pm  #12


Re: First Real Emergency Alert Aired On Local TV Wednesday

Just one last note about Larry Fedoruk's coverage of this story, which was also brought up on RB's Live Drive. In a later recap toward the end of his show, Fedoruk made three interesting points.

1) He indicated Pelmorex was supposed to give advance notice to stations about the interruption, but no one apparently contacted any of them. He predicted there would be a flood of phone calls by radio outlets to the company asking, "what the hell was that?"

2) He tried to explain to listeners why the hosts on talk radio couldn't hear what was on the air, due to having to monitor the studio feed instead of the on air output, mainly thanks to the delay system. That may explain why so many talkers weren't aware of what was going on during their show. 

3) And finally, while I'm sure the system will eventually work itself out, Fedoruk concluded with what may be the line of the day on this issue. "The biggest disaster," he concluded, "was the system itself."

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