Washington basketball fans sizzled for more than an hour last night when the first half of the Bullets-Spurs playoff game was not on WDCA-TV-20 because of a problem involving long-distance telephone lines.
"It's not our fault," Bob Gneiser, Channel 20's news director, said. "It was C&P (Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co.). There is what is known as a repeater station, a booster station that kicks up long-distance calls.
"The (repeater) station we were using is at 14th Street and Columbia Road (NW). They had a problem there, there was no power in the booster, so it just went pffffft."
"We had a power failure in our amplifier, that was the problem," said C&P spokesman Webb Chamberlin. "We got it fixed as fast as we could. I don't know what caused the power failure. There's no denying it. It was our problem."
When viewers tuned in for the opening tipoff at 8:30 p.m., they received instead reruns of the "Little Rascals," "Three Stooges," "Hogan's Heroes" and "Sanford and Son."
The station got the game back on the air in time for a halftime interview with Bullet owner Abe Pollin. Announcer Jim Karvellas said, "We'd like to apologize to all you fans . . . the problem was with AT&T."
Gneiser said it was impossible to determine how many phone calls the station received from irate fans because its operator goes off duty at 6 p.m. "All I know is every light in the place was lit up, and we couldn't call out," he said.
"A couple of guys drove up to the station (at 5202 River Road, Bethesda) in a car, and they didn't look happy."
The Washington Post received more than 200 telephone calls. Most callers were unhappy.