L.A. Broadcast Media Dodges Flames

As you may have heard, parts of the state of California are in the midst of its yearly fire season. A nasty blaze is burning near Mt. Wilson, which just happens to be the primary location where most Los Angeles-market radio and television stations site their transmission equipment. As of this afternoon, the “Station Fire” was just a half-mile from the broadcast facilities and closing.
The last two times major media markets had a nearly spectrum-wide blackout was in 2001 (New York) and (2005) (New Orleans). In at least one of those situations, grassroots media played a particularly important role in keeping residents informed of the unfolding crisis, and in both cases, many major radio and television stations either went off the air for days (if not weeks or months), and when they returned they were from backup facilities, often providing less-than-normal coverage.
If the Mt. Wilson fire were to burn up all those transmitters and towers, how prepared is the broadcast industry for such a situation? Consolidation over the last decade-plus has hit the engineering-side of the business hard; where it used to be that one engineer was responsible for one or two transmission-sites, many conglomerates now contract out whole clusters. Those folks have got to be sweating it right now.