Danger in subpar weather offering

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 21 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:57 am in
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By Alan Claghorn

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One thing I like about Sen. Chuck Grassley is his ability to make a point. While we are used to the senator weighing in and protecting Iowa’s interests in Washington, he recently waded into the growing controversy over DirecTV’s recent decision to eliminate The Weather Channel from its lineup.

It’s never a good time to be without world-class weather programing, but the decision to eliminate The Weather Channel in one of the most bizarre, frigid winters in memory is questionable at best.

Grassley and other Iowans aren’t so much concerned about the business dispute between DirecTV and The Weather Channel, but more about the shoddy substitute DirecTV has forced on its subscribers.

It’s called WeatherNation, and the initial reviews aren’t so sunny. The Associated Press reports DirecTV subscribers are not pleased, writing that many feel “WeatherNation is a poor substitute that offers rote seven-day forecasts without the in-depth analysis of people like Weather Channel star Jim Cantore.”

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the man responsible for the Department of Defense’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf, had stern words of his own, writing for the Huffington Post that “it lacks critical functionality and does not ensure preparedness in the face of weather emergencies.”

For Iowa’s farmers who need timely weather reports to protect their crops and livestock, some knockoff simply won’t cut it. Nor will it allow our emergency first responders, police and firefighters to get the critical information they need. They face enough risks already on a daily basis; unreliable weather forecasts should not be one of them.

The Federal Communications Commission also has entered into the mix, as deaf and hard-of-hearing satellite subscribers are unable to receive WeatherNation’s closed captioning when viewing the channel on DirecTV. And, when they do, it’s little more than gibberish.

According to the National Weather Service, Iowans endured 27 tornados in 2013. As we approach tornado season, we’ll hope for the best. Even the best preparations can’t control the elements.

Bringing The Weather Channel back into the programming mix for the close to 200,000 DirecTV viewers in Iowa seems like a small price for the company to pay to ensure its subscribers stay safe.

Alan Claghorn is a farmer from Milo.

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