KATV Little Rock Pre-empts Oprah Finale With Storm Coverage

By Leslie Jaye Goff

B&C contributor Leslie Jaye Goff checked in with this local TV report from Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday afternoon:

Amid tornado sightings, severe thunderstorms, hail and strong winds across Arkansas, KATV Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate in Little Rock, stunned Oprah fans this afternoon when it pre-empted the Queen of Daytime’s final show to conduct live storm coverage.

The station announced just after 4 p.m. (Central), the show’s regularly scheduled timeslot, that it would broadcast the much-anticipated episode at 12:35 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Thursday. While tornadoes on the ground, funnel clouds and rotating wall clouds were confirmed in the greater viewing area, the programming switch irked some viewers on Twitter. DeShaun Artis (@deshaunmarquis ) retweeted: “RT @4EverLoyalWhit KATV really don’t understand the importance of watching Oprah right now,” and a tweeter called “Nesh Bo Besh” (@TheNeshShow), wrote, “Damn You KATV.”

Apparently, the station also received a few choice phone calls, prompting Good Morning, Arkansas producer Diana Harbour (@KATVDiana) to tweet, “Anyone wanna come answer KATV newsroom calls? Any takers? PLZ!” and later, “Come on over…not all of them are being…polite.”

In the meantime, KATV meteorologist Todd Yakoubian (@KATV_Weather) was tweeting real-time warnings and photos of conditions statewide, starting in the mid-afternoon and escalating about the time Oprah would have aired:

  • 4:00 p.m.: Confirmed wall cloud near Beebe #ARWX
  • 4:00 p.m.: Rotating wall cloud near Bauxite. Eastern part of Saline county take cover now. #ARWX
  • 4:10 p.m.: NWS reporting Tornado on the ground near Oil Trough moving NE, moving 50 mph #ARWX
  • 4:11 p.m.: State Police reporting tornado on the ground near Newport #ARWX

His tweets kept up all hour:

  • 4:45 p.m.: Augusta move to a safe place
  • 4:47 p.m.: McCrory go ahead and get to your safe place
  • 4:48 p.m.: Confirmed reports of tornado on the ground near Augusta.
  • 4:51 p.m.: Rotation near Grapevine moving towards Pine Bluff, Jefferson County #ARWX

A KATV spokesman said the station went on the air at roughly 3:30 p.m. with the severe weather coverage. “It is the station’s policy to provide live on-air weather coverage when active tornado warnings are in effect for the KATV viewing area,” he wrote in an email. On Tuesday, reacting to forecasts of severe weather on Wednesday, the station had begun announcing that if the final Oprah show were interrupted, it would be broadcast on Thursday.

“Thanks to the preemptive strike (promotion), and the repeating of the Oprah announcement during today’s weather coverage, we only got about a dozen calls from upset viewers,” he wrote. “We of course explained to them that severe weather coverage is a primary responsibility of the station.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.