Benet J. Wilson AOPA
TV News Sweeps Spawn GA 'Investigative' Stories
February 10, 2014
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  • A Milwaukee, Wis., television station is scheduled to run a late-night story Feb. 10 on taxpayer dollars being spent on general aviation airports without allowing AOPA to comment on how GA brings nearly $700 million in economic input to the state.

    February is a “sweeps” month for television, so news stations pull out all the stops to run “investigative” and controversial stories to boost their ratings. These ratings are important because they determine the advertising rates television stations can charge.

    GA scare stories are a perfect target, as in the case WTMJ-TV. The station promoted an investigative report, entitled “Small Airports, Big Upgrade,” set to air tonight. The teaser for the story was, “Millions of your tax dollars dumped into tiny airports that you’ll never use. Why are Wisconsin’s smallest airports getting big upgrades with your money? You asked, we investigate.”

    AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager Bryan Budds learned about the story, and AOPA’s media relations team contacted the reporter and was promised a call back to weigh in on the issue, but never received one.

    AOPA initially alerted members about the upcoming report through Facebook. Members took to the association’s Facebook fan page to weigh in, and as of 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 10, there were 45 comments, 45 shares, 149 likes, and nearly 17,000 views. And they were not shy about sharing their opinion with WTMJ-TV Vice President and General Manager Steve Wexler or on the station’s Facebook page.

    “It really is unfortunate that TMJ4 chose not to fully examine the airport system and the countless ways general aviation benefits the entire state,” said Budds. “Certainly TMJ4 wouldn’t feel these airports are insignificant knowing they employ more than 16,000 residents, including pilots, aircraft mechanics, aircraft schedulers, airport managers, and countless others from across the state, and produce an annual economic impact of nearly $700 million.”

    GA in Wisconsin also supported 9,390 jobs and provided $259 million in personal income in 2010. The total impact of all aviation in the state is $6.9 billion in output, 90,900 jobs, and $3.5 billion personal income earned in 2010.

    The station also benefits from GA by using its Bell 206L4 helicopter in its news-gathering duties. “You would think the station would understand just how valuable general aviation can be for disaster recovery and other emergency services being that its Bell 206L4 has been used in such a manner several times,” Budds observed.

    Members are being urged to send an email to WTMJ-TV Vice President and General Manager Steve Wexler and encourage him to look at the positive benefits of GA in Wisconsin.