EPD Scanner Change Could Mean Big Change for Bloody TV News

TV news watchers may soon see less car wrecks, fires, cop chases and other “if it bleeds it leads” coverage on local broadcasts.

The Eugene police department sent out a memo May 5 to local media on the upcoming switch of police radio to digital. That means the old analog scanners that TV reporters use won’t work.

Even with digital scanners, EPD Capt. Chuck Tilby writes that “some frequencies will be encrypted in compliance with the new Oregon Consumer Theft Protection Act passed by the legislature in 2007. Eventually all channels may be encrypted.”

This may not be a great loss. Local TV news has long been derided for lazy, fear-mongering scanner chasing that fills local news with titillating gore without real reporting or news value.

Then again, scanners brought us the OJ car chase, but they sometimes also offer an important public eye for police accountability. Here’s a recent example from Philadelphia:

Tilby writes that “another program that we’ve been working on, while not equaling the usefulness of a newsroom scanner, may provide some supplemental assistance to you in newsgathering. Soon to be released will be a Eugene Police internet activity log that will be refreshed as calls clear, instead of every 24 hours.”

In Portland, scanner audio is on the internet.

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