NBC Stations Urged to Put Y2K Disaster Movie to Community Use

An upcoming television movie that paints the Y2K computer problem as a major disaster could be used by local news affiliates as a springboard to more useful discussion about community preparedness, say grassroots organizers and a concerned government association.

‘Y2K: The Movie’ is scheduled to air on the NBC network Nov. 21 at 9 p.m. A synopsis of the movie on the NBC web site calls it a ‘suspense thriller’ that opens with a power outage along most of the eastern seaboard.

‘Nick must stay ahead of the unpredictable Y2K bug as it spreads across the U.S., threatening everyone,’ the promo goes on.

Fearful that the movie might cause unwarranted concern, the National Governor’s Association requested a screening of the NBC movie before it aired. They were turned down, said spokesperson Terrell Halaska. The group is now suggesting that members urge local NBC affiliates to follow up the film with accurate Y2k information.

‘We just don’t want unecessary fears to be raised when states have been working very, very hard to be prepared,’ said Halaska, adding, ‘States have the information to answer any questions that might come up.’

Patricia Ducher, who has been active in Y2K preparedness groups in Tallahassee, Fla., said even if the plot sounds silly, the movie’s potential impact should not be ignored.

People seem to fall into two camps of awareness about the computer-related bug, Ducher said. Some are apathetic and have been lulled to near sleep by government assurances. Others are pretty panicky. ‘When you add a movie like this into the mix, it’s not certain as to what impact it’s going to have on whom.’

Gary Gach, a San Francisco-based journalist and Internet instructor, agreed, noting that many Americans are not well-informed media consumers. ‘Just the general premise (of the movie) sounds to me like the kind of broadcasting that taps into the media dependence among many people,’ he said.

Gach proposes that community groups write or call their local NBC affiliate and request that a story about local preparedness efforts be included in the newscast following the movie. That way, the network’s ‘irresponsible’ decision to broadcast a movie that ‘capitalizes on people’s worst instincts, such as fear,’ can be turned into a ‘genuine opportunity for building bridges and creating community,’ said Gach.

NBC did not return a phone call.

Anthony Moor, a reporter at KRON television news, the NBC affiliate in San Francisco, said he had long planned to do an update on local preparations after the movie. Moor plans to review where local communities stand, what their remaining concerns are and what the reality of Y2k problems are across the country as the switchover nears. ‘This is the last chance for fear mongers to incite panic,’ said Moor of the movie. ‘I don’t think they’ll succeed. It is a television movie.’

A list of NBC-affiliated stations is available on its web site at www.nbc.com/stations/index.html.

Contacts: Patricia Ducher, Tallahassee, Fla., 850-562-1900. Gary Gach, San Francisco, Calif., 415-771-7793; Y2K web site: www.facsnet. org/y2k. Terrell Halaska, spokesperson, National Governor’s Association, Washington, D.C., 202-624-5364; web site: www.nga.org. Anthony Moor, reporter, KRON, San Francisco, Calif., 415-561-8966.

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