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Radio/TV: Pittsburgh stations won't fall victim to fake zombie alerts

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 7:17 a.m.

Here in the city where “Night of the Living Dead” was filmed, Pittsburgh stations feel ready for hoaxes such as the one posted on the Emergency Alert System at KRTV-3 in Great Falls, Mont.

“Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living,” the fake Feb. 11 EAS alert told KRTV viewers.

Others victimized, possibly by that same hacker, include WNMU-13 in Marquette, Mich.

The Federal Communications Commission urged stations to secure EAS equipment and reset passwords.

“Apparently, the stations that were compromised failed to re-set the default log-in and passwords given them when they first installed the equipment,” WPXI-11 producer Maureen O'Connor said.

“This scenario is not possible with WYEP-91.3/WESA-90.5 as we run an analog EAS system,” said Russ Loyd, chief engineer for both public FMs.

Loyd called “robust and secure” Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's EMnet. It's relayed to six counties including Allegheny and Westmoreland via WQED-89.3 and CBS Radio's KDKA-1020.

CBS Radio manager Michael Young said his stations “are fairly confident that it would be very difficult for anyone to generate a false signal or message” through EAS.

“We are following the FCC recommendations by double-checking our equipment,” said WQED TV-FM spokesman George Hazimanolis.

Some area stations monitor outlets serving other regions, such as Keymarket's WOGG-94.9 and WPKL-99.3 for Fayette and Greene counties.

Others also said they were not affected, including Renda, with 11 area stations including WMNY-1360 in McKeesport.

Clear Channel reported taking “all appropriate steps,” as did Trib Total Media partner KQV-1410. But, KQV's co-manager Robert W. Dickey Jr. cautioned, “It's only as good as the last outbreak sometimes.”

Elsewhere, some reaired the bogus alerts, triggering other systems. Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters consultant Matt Lightner said it is “illegal to transmit any EAS tones or anything that sounds like an EAS tone” except for “a real alert or official testing.”

• Working Family Radio's Union Edge now airs weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. on WKFB-770 and FM 97.5. Its stated aim is to tackle “years of anti-union propaganda” elsewhere.

“We are sometimes robust in our discussions, but we are always respectful,” host Charles Showalter said. “We address the inaccurate information that is propagated (by others) and people enjoy it.”

• Apollo's WAVL-910 could go silent as early as next month because of financial considerations, according to manager Jeff Bogaczyk.

Several years ago Renda Broadcasting had an FCC permit to swap what then was WPTT's frequency for that used by the Evangel Heights Assembly of God-owned talk station.

That permit, which later expired, would have put WAVL on AM 1360 in Apollo and what now is WMNY on AM 910 in Mt. Lebanon, rather than McKeesport.

• D. Raja, former candidate for Allegheny County executive and for state Senate in the South Hills, is doing an hour-long “Your American Story” on Sundays at 1:30 p.m. on Clear Channel's WPGB-104.7.

The show aims to continue the legacy of the late “American Entrepreneur” WMNY and WPGB talk show host Ron Morris, his widow Karen said.

• For a second time in less than a year, satellite access to Sinclair's WPGH-53 and WPMY-22 was in doubt at presstime. Last summer it was over a transmission agreement with Dish Network. This time, it's DirecTV, whose present contract with Sinclair was scheduled to expire on Friday.

• WQED-13's next cooking marathon has eight firefighters joining Chris Fennimore on Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

• Former WPXI weatherman Mike LaPoint is back in the Midwest, joining WOWT-6 in Omaha, Neb., as its chief meteorologist.

• Former WDVE-102.5 deejay Jim Krenn kicks off a “No Restrictions” comedy podcast March 14 on Sideshow Network. His first taping is on March 7 at the Bricolage Theater.

• A second season of “Farm Kings,” stories of Butler's King family, begins in April on Great American Country.

• Finally, “in memoriam”:

Bill Steltemeier, president of Eternal Word Television Network who died on Feb. 15, made the Catholic outlet a staple on cable nationwide.

Dr. Bruce Dixon, former Allegheny County health director who died on Wednesday, was a friend and active backer of “Pittsburgh oldie” disc jockeys.

Jodi Weigand contributed to this story. Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967.

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