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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 19, 2003

War likely to pre-empt programming

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Should war evolve and network TV coverage increase, the chances are pretty good that you won't get your weekly fix of "American Idol," "Law and Order," "CSI" or "The Practice."

Hawai'i's TV affiliates are on edge, awaiting cues from the networks. Regular programming likely will be a casualty.

"The general assumption is that if a war should start, the network would take over on a sustaining basis for 24 to 48 hours — with no commercials — just like it was with 9/11," said Mike Rosenberg, general manager of KITV-4 (ABC).

That means immediate suspension of scheduled programming.

"Our plans are to follow the network lead," said John Fink, general manager of KHNL-8 (NBC). "But a lot will depend on who, what, and where — North Korea is different from Iraq — in terms of local implications. But we would start out with national coverage. Our goal is to make sure whatever information needs to be passed on, we will be a conduit."

Said Rick Blangiardi, general manager of KHON-2 (Fox) and KGMB-9 (CBS): "We have affiliate agreements and beyond the initial alerts, we reserve the right to break in (local) news coverage as needed. We'll take one day at a time; we'll wait and see what directions we get. But clearly, none of us wants this (war) to happen."

If the networks halt regular programming to bring the reality of war to living rooms, as it did during the Gulf War, the affiliates here would lose untold thousands of dollars of advertising, said Rosenberg. During network coverage of the World Trade Center devastation, commercials were not slotted until two days after the tragedy.

ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox would maintain an around-the-clock vigil to match and compete with cable coverage on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

"We'll stay with the network, but may use news tickers if necessary," said Rosenberg of headline "crawls" on the screen. "...we could also do hourly updates or split screens."