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Why Do Networks Send TV Programs to Iowa Before the East Coast?

Nicholas Johnson's Exchange With

Host Ben Kieffer and Guest Riverside Theater's Ron Clark

During an "Our Big Brain" Edition of "Talk of Iowa"
Iowa City, Iowa

February 5, 2004

Ben Kieffer [BK]:  Letís go to Nick in Iowa City.  Hi Nick.

Nicholas Johnson [NJ]:  Hi.

[The "Our Big Brain" program consists of callers raising questions to which other callers may have the answers. One of this program's questions included, "Why do we refer to someone as waiting with 'bated breath'?" Another was, "What happens to the callers who are put on hold by the show and then aren't there when it comes their turn?" One of the callers who wasn't there called back a second time and explained that she had hung up because the caller just before her had provided the answer to the question that she had called in to answer, but that now she had the answer to the "bated breath" question. (It's not "baited," as in fishing, it's short for "abated.") Another questioner wanted to know why it is that television network programming runs in Iowa earlier than in the eastern time zone. The host and guest speculated that the programming was sent out once, all across the country, and thus would be one hour earlier in the central time zone, two hours earlier in the moutain time zone, and so forth. This transcript has been modified to provide a slightly fuller answer.]

Well, what goes around comes around.  I had the answer for "bated breath," which has now been stolen by the lady whose other answer was stolen by her prior caller.

But I also have an answer to the question about why it is we get television programming when we do.

The networks send it via satellite on separate feeds. If the same feed were used for New York and California a program aired at 8:00 p.m. in New York would be on at 5:00 p.m. in Los Angeles, pacific time. So it's fed twice so as to be seen at 8:00 p.m. on both coasts.

We, in Iowa, get the east coast feed. So what's on the air at 9:00 p.m. in New York is seen in Iowa at "the same time" -- except that "the same time" means when it's 9:00 in New York it's 8:00 here.

But why do they do that?

It's because the people who work for the networks travel between the east coast and the west coast. That's where they know people.  Iowa is to fly over. They think they know thereís nothing worthwhile between the west coast and the east coast. They assume that everyone who lives in Iowa -- which they confuse with Idaho and Ohio -- the people who live in "those states," all get up at four in the morning to go milk the cows. Therefore, the network executives assume, we couldnít possibly stay up as late as their friends on the east and the west coast ,and so we should please have our programming earlier.

BK: Wow. With his tongue caught firmly in his cheek, Nick in Iowa City.

NJ:  No, thatís no tongue in cheek at all.  Thatís the Godís truth. I know those people.

RC:  Well, they are better for knowing you. You straighten them out, Nick.  You let them know that some of us actually stay up until, oh gosh, 9:30, 10:00 even.

NJ:  Thatís right, with great entertainment right here in Iowa City that you provide.

RC:  Thank you. Thanks so much.

BK: Very good. Thank you very much for calling, Nick in Iowa City.