Federal safety board takes heat for reality TV show

Federal safety board takes heat for reality TV show
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A federal safety investigation board is in the congressional hot seat for its involvement in a reality television show, with senators demanding answers about whether any federal funding was used on the program.

Lawmakers want to know why the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) agreed to participate in “Alaska Aircrash Investigators”, a documentary-style reality show that shadows NTSB officials conducting accident investigations in the state.

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The Senate Appropriations Committee tacked report language onto the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) fiscal 2017 spending measure that would condemn the NTSB for participating in the show and directs the agency to answer if any appropriated funds were to support the project.

The provision is backed by Republican Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Man charged with threatening Alaska senators pleads not guilty Two women could lead a powerful Senate spending panel for first time in history MORE of Alaska.

“I’m happy with the committee’s willingness to take this up and put this on the front burner, so not only NTSB but also other federal agencies won’t be engaged in reality TV,” Murkowski said during the THUD bill’s markup.

Critics have criticized that the show’s producers were granted unparalleled access to ongoing investigations, including sensitive information that had not yet been released to victims’ families, and said the series unfairly depicts aircraft accident rates in Alaska.

“The Committee ... questions whether its participation in reality shows advances its mission to advance transportation safety and protect the interests of the families of accident victims,” the report language says.

“Moreover, the Committee is concerned that the NTSB agreed to participate in a six episode reality show focused on the NTSB’s work in a single state to the exclusion of all others; a decision which could convey a false impression to viewers that air transportation in that state is inherently dangerous.”
 
The six-part series began airing on the Smithsonian Channel on March 13, but was filmed last year.

The show’s website highlights incidents that include a wedding flyover that turned tragic, a commuter flight that mysteriously veered off course and slammed into a mountain, and a pilot and passenger who survived a crash but then died in the currents of an icy waterway.

“These are just a few of roughly 100 aircraft accidents that occurred in Alaska in 2015 and challenged one of the busiest and most unique offices of the National Transportation Safety Board,” the site says. “Follow NTSB investigators as they attempt to determine the probable cause of each crash, be it man, machine, or environment.”

Murkowski quipped that “Alaska is the land of reality TV shows,” but doesn't think a program on airplane crashes should be one of them.

“While some of them are entertaining, the investigation of aircraft accidents is not an entertainment sport or activity,” she said. “I don’t believe our federal agency should be involved.”