Our Warnings Are Only as Good as Our Signal

I have been intrigued over the past few years at a lot of the geek talk about mobile TV, particularly the ability of smartphones and other devices to pick up digital television signals.

I saw on a blog today a new product called a Boxee, which is a USB receiver for digital television (though it requires an antenna).

A television network exclusively for smartphones, broadcasting over terrestrial transmitters, exists in Japan.

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about signal feeding over WiFi, 3G, 4G, or whatever comes next, but actually getting the signal just like you used to (or mom and dad or grandma or grandad).

Over-the-air.

As a radio and broadcasting geek, the potential for this technology to be rolled out soon is exciting.

It’s also exciting because I am a firm believer that no technology can ever replace a human meteorologist.

No “app” will ever replace a trusted voice.

That person people turn to in a storm.

It’s not shameless self-aggrandizement to say that meteorologists save lives.  It’s been true time and time again.

Television meteorologists for the foreseeable future will have that critical role of explaining what is occurring in a language the public can understand.

But how do we get our message to the viewer?  Running outside and shouting into the wind like some sort of town crier doesn’t get the job done.

Delivering mobile television to the masses on their smartphones, tablets, or maybe on a Dick Tracy watch is where the industry must go to remain relevant.

And to continue to make money.

Now, the problem with so-called mobile TV is the fact that digital television signals are more difficult to receive than analog.  So some sort of hybrid system using cell towers would be the best way to augment local television’s reach.

I am heartened that it seems that’s where we’re going.

As far as how our jobs will change with “always-on” local television?

Get ready to work even harder.

Meteorologists have to embrace the fact that they’ve got to be ready to serve up the information on multiple platforms as soon as the viewer/user demands it.

They should have embraced it already.

Those who don’t embrace it will have to at least accept it.

Those who don’t accept it won’t be there when the viewer needs their “hand held.”

And any broadcasting veteran knows that it takes years to build viewer loyalty, but can take just one incident of failure to lose it.

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About Morgan Palmer

Meteorologist at KIRO 7 CBS in Seattle.
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