By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published Nov 24, 2014 at 4:34 PM Photography:

There was a time when NASA launches preempted primetime broadcasting for the launch and landings of various manned and unmanned missions to space.

As time went on, the routine of broadcasting each launch fell by the wayside. After the initial spectacle that was presented, viewers saw the NASA activities as commonplace. What happened was the world of broadcasting changed. People were tuning out, and in a competitive marketplace, stations had to do what it thought best to maintain the ratings.

Last week President Obama addressed the nation on the immigration issue and what his plans were to use Executive Orders to move forward with a plan when Congress seemed gridlocked and not willing to act. Because immigration is such a hot topic, many lawmakers saw the entire process as too toxic to touch without damaging personal political careers.

When word of the national address became known, local TV stations were able to make the decision to carry the broadcast or to let it go. WISN-TV Ch. 12, an ABC affiliate, was the only local station to carry Obama’s address.

Some stations were helped by their affiliations in the decision not to broadcast the speech when the big four announced it would not cover the address. They would stick with "The Big Bang" (CBS), "The Biggest Loser" (NBC), "Bones" (Fox) and "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC).

The question with the networks -- and in return, the other local TV stations – was the decision made not to run the addressed based on lack of interest of viewers? The decision may have been politically-driven. Or, the networks just wanted as many viewers as possible on prime-time programming.

Fox and NBC have the luxury of having affiliated cable news networks that aired the speech, surrounded by hours-worth of analysis to provide context. But CBS and ABC just stood with the decision to not let the White House dictate coverage terms.

Up until Wednesday this week, the TV stations are in the important November sweeps period. This is the time when the advertising rates are set and carry through to the May sweeps. To give up even 15 minutes in the primetime could mean a gain or loss of thousands to hundreds of thousands of viewers depending on the market.

For local stations like ours in Milwaukee, it could make the difference of which station ears the sign-on to sign-off crown. 

"Given how many of their viewers are directly impacted by the President's actions, it's not surprising that the two major Spanish-language broadcast networks — Univision and Telemundo — and all of their O&Os and affiliates opted for the president," wrote Harry A. Jessell in the New York Post, praising the stations that balked at the networks and made a local decision to cover the address.

"The station preemptions — and their tacit repudiations of the networks' decision not to cover the speech — demonstrate once again that stations take seriously covering issues they deem important to their viewers, even if it costs some ratings points and the revenue that goes with them or strains relations with the networks.


"It's also important for local broadcasters to flex their editorial muscle every once in the while by showing that they still call the shots, not the networks as many suppose."

BANKRUPTCY: Aereo, the digital service that sought to deliver broadcast television on  a digital device, filed for bankruptcy protection.

The firm wanted to move into a number of different markets – including Madison – t try out its offering to see if it could sell the service to viewers. The problem came from pushback by the broadcasters that wouldn’t get retransmission payments for Aereo charging viewers to get what was free over the air. Cable and satellite providers have to negotiate with local stations in each market for a retransmission deal. Aereo didn’t want to give many to broadcasters for the service it was providing.

After a major Supreme Court ruling in June, Aereo’s revenue plan was broken, and caused the firm down this path.

"We encountered significant challenges from the incumbent media companies," Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said in the statement.

"While we had significant victories in the federal district courts in New York and Boston and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the reversal of the Second Circuit decision in June by the U.S. Supreme Court has proven difficult to overcome."

GRAND JURY: Fox Business Network’s  Neil Cavuto will anchor a special edition of "Cavuto"  at 7 p.m.  covering the Ferguson Grand Jury and the possible economic impact based on the decision.

Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

Media is bombarding us everywhere.

Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.

The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.