Hearst Survey May Help NAB Unintentionally

The National Association of Broadcasters' quest to win the Great Spectrum Battle may have received some help Tuesday from a large station group. Hearst Television released a survey looking to advance the cause that local TV is critical in a crisis.

In the process, it gave itself a pat on the back, which may have been its primary intention anyway.

Results of the Hearst survey show that nearly 40% of respondents in three markets first learned Hurricane Irene was approaching from local TV. The Internet came in second at 16%, while other news outlets were mentioned by 11% or fewer respondents.

The Hearst-commissioned survey was conducted by Marshall Marketing in three markets impacted by the August storm, where Hearst has stations: Baltimore, Boston and the Burlington, Vt. area.

Further results had 66% saying local news gave them "key or critical information" as the storm barreled down on their areas. And, wouldn't you know it, the Hearst stations were mentioned most often as the key sources.



Respondents asked: "Which local television station did you watch most often for Hurricane Irene coverage?" mentioned the Hearst outlets most frequently.

And, an average of about 95% of viewers were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the coverage by the Hearst stations.

The survey was conducted Sept. 19-22 with 1,400 respondents - 500 each in Baltimore and Boston and 400 in the Burlington, Vt./Plattsburgh, N.Y. areas.

The trade group for local broadcasters, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), has been waging a battle in Washington to prevent Congress or the FCC from looking to persuade stations to voluntarily put some of their spectrum up for auction. One of its tactics has been to argue that during natural disasters, local TV is an unmatched medium for providing information. In August, it used both the East Coast earthquake and hurricane as launching pads.

Hearst CEO David Barrett is on the NAB board. (The Hearst survey also showed that the 40% of respondents whose homes lost power continued to monitor the storm elsewhere, but returned to local TV ASAP.)

In the Great Spectrum Battle, the NAB is going against the CTIA, the trade group for the wireless industry, where the members would like to grab broadcast spectrum to bolster their networks. The CTIA's head, Steve Largent, noted after the earthquake that: "While television and radio played a role in helping to disseminate information to consumers, most Americans used their mobile devices to find out if their family and friends were safe. Yesterday's earthquake underscored the vital need for our industry to get more spectrum."

Whether Hearst meant to or not, its data may just find its way to the FCC or a Capitol Hill hearing.

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