Chicago anchors joke someone forgot to pay the power bill during video wall fail

NBC Chicago anchors were left standing in front of a black video wall after a technical glitch.

At the tail end of WMAQ’s 4 p.m. newscast Feb. 1, 2022, co-anchors Marion Brooks and Stefan Holt moved over to the station’s standalone video wall so that 5 p.m. anchors Allison Rosati and Rob Stafford could get into position at the main anchor desk.

The pair was reading a story about the upcoming Super Bowl LVI with related B-roll running fullscreen when the picture suddenly dropped out.

“It’s going to be quite the show,” Holt said, somewhat ironically given that the screen had gone to black.

The control room then cut back to the pair at standing at the video wall, where there was presumably supposed to be some kind of graphic or video behind them.

“Someone forgot to pay the power bill,” joked Holt, indicating to the blank LED panels behind him.

“There will be something here later,” said Brooks, indicating to the empty spot between her and Holt. Holt then jokingly said Stafford “forgot to pay the bill.”

All the jokes about power bills aside, the station didn’t appear to actually be experiencing a significant power issue given that the lights and cameras were all still running and the newscast was going out live, though most TV stations have redundant backup systems in the event of power loss. 

Advertisement

In some cases, however, these systems don’t power “non-essential” elements, which could include a secondary video wall.

More likely, however, is that something went awry with either the computer system that feeds the video wall or that particular LED array lost power for whatever reason.

When Brooks and Holt tossed to Rosati and Stafford, they could be seen sitting at the main anchor desk with the video wall behind them up and running with a live feed of the city.

It’s common for stations to have anchors switch to some sort of alternate venue when transitioning from one newscast to another, especially if the shows run back to back or nearly back to back.

WMAQ added the L-shaped video wall installation in 2021. The two walls, which meat at a 90-degree angle, are often used for standups, sports and other segments, either with both walls shown or only one being used, as was the case here.

Whatever the issue, it was apparently resolved quickly because the 5 p.m. newscast featured multiple segments with it that went off without a hitch.

LED video panels display as black when they are powered off or, in some cases, they may appear to be black if no feed is being sent to them or they are in “standby” mode (some manufacturers don’t recommend power cycling the panels between uses).

Because the individual diodes used in LED use a combination of red, green and blue light at varying levels to create the millions of colored pixels needed to form the complete picture, there is actually not “true black” on LED panels; instead black is simply depicted as that particular diode (or, in this case, all of them) not emitting any light, which often ends up being more of a dark gray.

OLED video panel technology typically allows for a more “true black” experience, but these haven’t become commonplace on news sets yet.

Sign up for NewscastStudio's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest broadcast industry news to your inbox including new debuts, case studies, thought leadership and broadcast gear updates.