Broadcasting sports events on network television is great from the perspective of the extra homes reached (around 38 million at this point for ABC versus ESPN, for example), but it leads to debates whenever those network affiliates decide to cut into live sports coverage for news or weather updates. Sometimes, those weather updates are severe and important indeed, and lead to criticism of those who blast them (or even apologies for not going to them). But sometimes, some viewers get upset over marginal (or even failed) weather updates that get in the way of critical sports moments. That can even lead to TV executives apologizing for their network’s decisions.
The debate intensifies even more with news updates, as local stations have often been pilloried for cutting into live sports for local or national stories that can be found in plenty of other places. The latest debate over this comes from ABC affiliate WEAR-TV in Pensacola, Florida. That station cut into the end of the AAC championship game (where Memphis beat Cincinnati 29-24) to televise the newest comments from Congressman Matt Gaetz (Republican, Florida’s 1st district) on a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola Friday that killed three sailors. Here are those comments, via Gaetz’s Twitter account:
NCIS did a report in 2016 that included an analysis of the Saudi flight training program, but we do not have access to it.
If the report had been able to give us more guidance and made us look closer at the students we were receiving we may have been able to prevent this attack. pic.twitter.com/fazhEJzTBI
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) December 8, 2019
That decision took a lot of criticism, especially considering that Gaetz had already appeared on the station Friday (the day of the incident). And some linked it to WEAR’s ownership by Sinclair, the conglomerate that also owns Stadium and the Fox Sports regional networks, which has been bashed for emphasizing right-wing political views on its stations. Here’s some of that criticism:
In college football crazy Pensacola @weartv (Sinclair) just broke away from the end of the AAC Championship during a last drive in a close game to interview Matt Gaetz about the NAS shooting. Gaetz just spouted a bunch of nonsense talking points. @awfulannouncing
— Chris Schieman (@ChrisSchieman) December 8, 2019
C'mon, WEAR! Show the remainder of the football game before switching to politicians discussing a matter they still do not know anything about!
— Rick Stevens (@Rick_Stevens) December 8, 2019
Show the game!
— James Lee (@Jleedds1545Lee) December 8, 2019
Come on, this could wait until the game is over. He's not delivering earth shaking news.
— ??? ??? ?? (@TheDocRFP) December 8, 2019
There’s always going to be a debate about what level of news or weather event is worth breaking into live sports for. For many critics here, WEAR’s decision Saturday fell short.
Correction: This post initially said the game was between FAU and UAB; that was the Conference USA championship game. The AAC game in question was between Memphis and Cincinnati.
[Chris Schieman on Twitter]