California Fires Fire Up Local Stations -- With Commerce Cooling Its Jets

Local California TV news stations have now done stretches -- 12, 14, and 16 hours at a time - in covering the dozen and a half major fires from San Diego to Malibu, and points north.

That means no "Simpsons," no "Springer," and most or all, no advertising.

People tend to forget that in true public emergencies TV stations will run wall-to-wall news coverage -- with no commercial and programming breaks. TV stations do lose money. But it reminds us why they are valuable, and why they can stand out from local cable outlets.

That said, national cable news networks -- Fox News and CNN -- have also spent a chunk of their time focused on the fires in California. That too was their duty. Network affiliates have no choice -- as a public duty in being good community citizens, secondarily to keep up with the competition.



California residents may wonder what their local cable operator did for them this week. They carried those national news networks that brought you that local news angle. Apart from that, probably not much else.

Some industry people may feel at times TV news has become devalued over the past few years. But then big stuff happens.  To virtually all the citizens in New Orleans, and the now half-a-million displaced people in Southern California, the bottom line is that TV news coverage instantly becomes a priority -- and that new episode of "Heroes" or "CSI" takes a back seat.

Local TV news still accounts for a hefty amount of the local advertising revenues of a station.  Local news operations then hopefully pay back their viewers when hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and fires hit with a vengeance, all with no thought of commerce, advertising.

At that moment you aren't calling that messaging by any cool name in the digital age - like content. You are calling it "news." Don't expect this to change in future years. You'll never hear someone say, "Have you heard the 'content'? The big fire is burning our neighborhood!"

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