Offstage Blog – CBS Atlanta Creates Social Media Firestorm During Tony Awards

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Award shows typically run over; that fact is no surprise. Yes, the national broadcast seemed to blunder by airing commercials over the Once performance. But, when WGCL, CBS Atlanta (channel 46), pre-empted the final award and closing number for the 11 o’clock news, Atlanta Theater Fans were not happy and not quiet about it either.

After the newscast began, social media erupted with criticism, anger and disgust. For many, more damage was done by the news anchor Bernard Watson mispronouncing the winning productions (A Trip to Beautiful Pippin and Kenny Boots) and his seemingly uncaring response to it when he corrected the titles.

Fans took to Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to log their displeasure with the event with many posting to CBS Atlanta’s Facebook page and its parent company’s page as well.  A few even posted email addresses of CBS Atlanta staff and called for an email campaign to complain.

Many seemed to feel the action was a lack of respect and support for the arts.

Twitter user Cara Myler wrote

@cbsatl So you cut off the Tonys before the biggest award then your anchor butchers names of winners and shows Disrespect. Locals won! #rude

https://twitter.com/Cara_Myler/status/344091392093601792

Others felt it was discrimination against a largely gay audience.

For some it was the local connections that were missed. The Tony Award winning Alliance Theatre held the word premiere of Bring It On: The Musical, and the show was up for Best Musical. Despite being a long shot against favored Kinky Boots, many Atlantans wanted to see the results as it was well received in Atlanta, even winning The Atlanta Theater Fan Award for Best Musical and the Suzi Award for Best World Premiere. Cutting off the award show implied a lack of knowledge and regard for the Atlanta connection.

Perhaps it was a lack of regard for the audience and a misassumption that viewers would rather see the news. Or, maybe it was a miscommunication from the national broadcast. The move, however, created an unforeseen backlash that could harm the ratings with Atlanta viewers unless the theater community forgives and forgets, which at this point seems highly unlikely.

Late Monday morning, the station responded with an article on their website: http://www.cbsatlanta.com/story/22548717/statement-from-cbs-atlanta-for-2013-tony-awards-finale

Trey Fabacher, Vice President and General Manager, WGCL-TV, CBS Atlanta, stated that it was an error snd not a reflection of the station’s support if the arts. CBS Atlanta will air the final seven minutes at tge begining of each of their afternoon and evening news broadcasts at 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on June 10, 2013.

Kinky Boots won Best Musical, and the production took in a total of six awards. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? took home three awards, tied with The Nance. Pippin won the award for revival of a musical, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike won the award for Best Play. For a full list of nominees and winner’s please visit www.tonyawards.com.

What are your thoughts on the event? Comment below.