Journalism

This Will Only Be a Test…

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I’m seeing more and more people populating their Facebook profiles with ridiculous warnings about a media takeover conspiracy theory.

As the dire warning goes, the federal government, or more specifically, the president, will shut down all broadcast outlets. Some claim he’ll even shut down the entire internet.

This is scheduled to happen on Nov. 9, 2011.

The reality is that on that day, all broadcast stations — television and radio — and cable and satellite providers are being asked to participate in a national test of the Emergency Alert System.

The EAS is what replaced the old Emergency Broadcast System, that quirky, clunky monstrosity most of us grew up with.

What makes this test different than most EAS tests you’ve ever seen is that it is being coordinated from coast to coast at the same time, rather at random times from market to market.

According to the FCC, requiring all stations to interrupt programming at 2 p.m. EST will allow the government to “assess the reliability and effectiveness of the EAS as a public alert mechanism.”

But conspiracy theorists — particularly on the Republican side of the table — are going ballistic, trying to portray this as something much more sinister. (Which isn’t all that surprising, as a Democrat is in the White House and painting everything sinister is just what conspiracy theorists do.)

Consider this article from The Blaze. The Blaze describes itself as a “news, information and opinion site brought to you by a dedicated team of writers, journalists & video producers.” It’s stated goal is to “post, report and analyze stories of interest on a wide range of topics from politics and culture to faith and family.”

In its coverage of the upcoming EAS test, it’s pointed out that the president has the authority to activate the EAS at the national level, and that he has “delegated that authority to the Director of FEMA.”

That’s a problem? Seriously, people: Congress has the power to authorize a declaration of war, but that doesn’t mean your senators and representatives will line up and lead the first charge.

The Blaze then demonstrates that this particular article is not written by a journalist with two lines that demonstrates sensationalism so clearly that anyone with half of a brain should be able to see it for what it is:

So this begs the question: is the first ever national EAS test really a big deal?

Probably not. At least, not yet.

They essentially admit that it’s likely nothing to worry about, but then go right on playing “What if” until they turn it into one.
Not one of the people eating this stuff up would allow any mainstream media outlet the license to get away with such a tactic.

But The Blaze, along with others who have either lifted that copy verbatim or made similar arguments are suddenly trusted as the only ones who really know what’s going on. And people who hate “the media,” which they accuse of such tactics, suddenly don’t seem to have a problem with it.

If there’s any genuine shock that a president — or any part of the government, for that matter — has any authority over broadcast stations, then someone hasn’t been paying a great deal of attention over the years.

Broadcast stations don’t just go on the air whenever they want, wherever they want, and on whichever channel they want. They must apply for and be granted a broadcast license from the federal government before they can go on the air.

The FCC oversees broadcasting on the national and local level. And a station that is found to be broadcasting in a manner that does not serve its audience effectively can lose its license.

It doesn’t happen very often at all, but if these people were running things, one can only imagine how much more it’d happen, particularly to anyone who said anything against, say, Ronald Reagan.

If all goes well on November 9th, your regular programming will be interrupted for about four minutes. If all doesn’t go well, the appointed time will come and go without an interruption. That’ll mean that the equipment that you’re supposed to be able to rely on didn’t work.

That’s the problem people need to be looking out for.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

3 Comments

  • I’m no fan of mainstream media, but even I would have a hard time buying the stuff the Blaze is putting out. When u was little the president would come on tv, every single channel (we had a total of 4), for a lot longer than 4 minutes.

  • Thanks for clearing this up, Patrick. I’ve not seen this particular conspiracy theory but it’s only a matter of time. You’ve saved me having to look this up. 🙂

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