Thursday, May 08, 2008

Midweek roundup part deux: All the news that didn't fit

Here's a continuation of some of the stuff I didn't cover yesterday, with two items involving progressive talk stations, and two concerning the digital television transition.

WWRC: Is it live, or is it Lionel?

Thanks to reader NYLefty, who dropped an email this morning. NYLefty fired off an email to Bill Hess, operations manager of WWRC (1260AM) in Washington, DC, wondering why the station was running day-old programs from Lionel in the 9-noon slot. Ironically, Air America feeds Lionel's show live to affiliates during that time slot. Talk about a head scratcher.

Hess responded right away, claiming that technical limitations would not allow for that, since the station records the show to air on delay later in the evening (7-10P) and in overnights (3-6A). He didn't say it, but the likely culprit would be the station's automation software, which records and replays syndicated shows. Many Clear Channel stations have had this same problem. The studio is currently undergoing a redesign, which will correct the problem.

In the meantime, the email prompted Hess to begin airing Lionel's show live, and to seek another show to record (or air live) for the evening broadcast. Everything should be working normally by Monday.

Wilmington, NC makes the DTV switch early

Last week, I wrote a bit about the television industry's transition from analog to digital broadcasting, a move that will conclude for full-power stations on February 17, 2009.

As of late, the FCC has been looking for test markets where the stations are willing to shut down their analog signals early, in order to prepare themselves for the digital era. One market has finally stepped forward. On September 8, 2008, Wilmington, NC will become the first market to switch to all-digital broadcasting, Mayor Bill Saffo said on Wednesday.

“We'll be the first in the country,” Saffo said, adding that he was “honored” to have his city take the lead.

The NBC, ABC and FOX full-power affiliates in the Wilmington area, as well as the Class A low-power CBS station are all prepared to pull the plug early. No word yet on the local PBS station (which does have a digital transmitter), or the other two low-power stations (one is a MyNetworkTV affiliate, the other is a translator for a religious network), both of which currently do not have digital facilities. Low-power television stations and translators are not required to shut down their analog signals next February.

In addition to Wilmington, stations in Orlando, FL will simulate the shut-off of their analog signals at various times during this summer. KVBC in Las Vegas conducted a similar test last week.

NBC Plans 24-Hour News for New York, other areas

Last week, via a comment on the DTV entry, I posed a question of sorts about digital subchannel programming. There are quite a few services catering to subchannel affiliation, such as ones dedicated to weather coverage and classic TV shows. What I was wondering was, why isn't anyone making a 24/7 news operation available? A few stations, such as KSTP in the Twin Cities, rerun the main channel's newscasts around the clock. But no national network has stepped up to the subchannel plate.

Granted, CNN, MSNBC and FOX News already have plum placement on cable and satellite systems, and don't want to jeopardize that. And starting up a news operation from scratch is an expensive and difficult undertaking. But ABC News Now, a full-time news operation which has crummy cable clearances on the few services that actually carry it, would be an obvious choice for the network's affiliates, just as Weather Plus fills a subchannel void for NBC stations. ABC once offered the news channel to affiliates for local digital carriage, but their current strategy seems to be web-based, via streaming. Needless to say, it only goes so far. Let's face it, they could use an edge. And cornering the 'rabbit ear' market via over-the-air digital means is a pretty good way of doing it.

Well, the over-the-air all-news channel idea is not a forgotten concept. Yesterday, word surfaced that NBC plans to roll out a dedicated 24/7 local news channel in New York. The upcoming news operations will be operated by flagship affiliate WNBC, and will originate from NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters.

The news channel will get digital-tier cable coverage across the region, as well as the 4.4 digital subchannel. In addition, if the WNBC experiment succeeds, they may look at expanding the news channel idea to their other owned-and-operated stations in markets such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The network also owns NBC affiliates in San Francisco/San Jose and Washington, DC, co-owns affiliates in San Diego and Dallas/Ft. Worth, and is currently looking to sell their affiliates in Miami and Hartford.

New Yorkers can look for a debut of the yet-unnamed service this fall or by early next year.

Rayburn talks to the Times

Finally, fans of WXXM (92.1FM)/Madison host Lee Rayburn should check out an interview he did with The Capital Times. You can find it here.


Anna said...

I can't find anything about it online, but the KPOJ morning show (formerly "THC-Thom, Heidi, and Carl") became "Carl Wolfson and Friends" today. Heidi Tauber was just gone (including any reference to her on the KPOJ website), although apparently Thom did do a quick statement saying that she was no longer at the station.

It always seemed like the relationship between Heidi and Carl was strained, although in talking to some Hartmann fans in his chat room, it appears she may have had problems with producer Paul Pimentel. I don't really know, but I will miss her and wish her well. She was a nice voice to wake up to.

NYLefty said...

WWRC is now carrying the Rachel Maddow feed from 6 PM to 9 PM and the Richard Greene/Clout feed from 9 PM to 11 PM. They still haven't updated their web site, which shows Lionel from 7 PM to 10 PM (in addition to 9 AM to Noon).

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