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April Fools: Some Stations Could Inadvertently Drop Hour

Larry Keene, head of the Traffic Directors Guild of America, is warning members of a possible April Fools joke that could be played on them by their automated digital playback systems.

He says that some clock-controlled automation systems have been pre-programmed to respond to the traditional switch to daylight savings time, known as "Spring Forward", which usually occurs the first Sunday in April.

This year, however, Congress had mandated that the date be moved earlier to the second Sunday in March.

Even if traffic directors make the change manually on March 11, some automated systems may do it again on Sunday, April 1. In order to minimize the damage, some stations would have to drop an hour of programming between 2-3am on Sunday April 1.
Keene emphasizes that the traffic systems will update correctly, but that the problem would be in downloading the programming logs into clock-controlled digital playback systems, a responsibility that often falls on traffic directors.

"It's not exactly Y2K," says Keene. "But it could still be a problem for stations with earlier traffic software or older digital playback automation systems." Older systems, however, are only about two to three years old.

His advice: Don't assume a March 11 switchover means you're out of the woods. Check again before April 1 to be on the safe side.

Keene recalled an attempted change to the broadcast calendar several years back which was pushed by advertisers. At the time, the existing calendar had been programmed through 2080 and it was too much trouble to rewrite the code.