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Clear Channel Station Can't Trust Its Own Forecast

The irony would be so delectable if it weren’t for the 1033 unfortunate drivers whose cars were stuck in the mud, many of which were totaled and not returned for over a week.

As Jerry Del Colliano reports at Inside Music Media, a Clear Channel station in Grand Rapids, MI threw its annual B93 Concert Bash on June 20 in nearby Ionia by the Grand Rapids River, apparently oblivious to flash flood warnings issued by the National Weather Service. In fact, a NWS representative told local WOOD-TV that there were warnings about the river level cresting as high as 17 feet by 9:30 AM issued as early as 5 AM the day of the concert.

Severe weather alerts are something that so many people still rely on radio for, and the reason why broadcasters are mandated to participate in a national Emergency Alert System. I can say from experience that the EAS system will spit out notifications of just about all NWS warnings. Recently I’ve certainly seen warnings for flash floods and river flooding issued to our EAS system at WNUR-FM, where I’m the adviser.

More than any old concert promoter, the staff of B93 was in a perfect position to be alerted to the flash flood avisory for the Grand Rapids river. But who knows if anyone at the station even checks the EAS anymore. The system is designed to override programming in the event of a significant emergency, like a tornado warning, but doesn’t with lower-level alerts. And somehow I doubt there was a live DJ on air Saturday morning prior to the concert starting.

Sure, any organization can make a bad judgement call in the face of unpredictable weather conditions. According to most news accounts it looks like local Ionia officials share blame for also missing the warnings and not shutting down the concert. Nevertheless we expect that the public service of radio at least provide this bare minimum of important information, and certainly not carry forward with events that put so many thousands of lives, not to mention millions of dollars in property, at risk.

Such a mishap could have occurred in the pre-consolidation era, but I doubt it. Localism means more than throwing a fee concert (but $15 for parking) once a year. Now thousands of car owners are learning the collateral damage of massive media consolidation.

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