The lost voice of broadcast
Come January, some radio personalities will no longer be just a voice in West Palm Beach when WEFL-AM takes over sports coverage for WPTV-TV’s NewsChannel 5 programming.
According to TCPalm.com, WEFL’s Evan Cohen will anchor weeknights and the weekly show, “Braman 5 Sports Live,” while Jason Pugh will anchor Fridays and weekends. Reporter Herb Uzzi will reportedly serve as the producer and reporter for the sportscasts on WPTV. “This long-term partnership benefits our station by giving us access to a 24-hour sports-focused operation that is affiliated with ESPN – and [radio station] ESPN 760 benefits from the added reach and audience we provide,” WPTV vice president and general manager Steve Wasserman said in a press release.
The union of broadcast popped up more than several times in 2009 as radio and television stations formed a different variety of content sharing partnerships. Hofstra University professor and associate chair of journalism Bob Papper said a lot of it has to do with money. “We’re seeing more and more cooperative ventures between TV stations and radio stations and between stations and newspapers and even among otherwise competing stations,” said the former television producer, writer and manager in an e-mail interview. “It’s about stretching tight resources – especially in the midst of staff cutbacks.”
Others that have merged resources include Phoenix’s KNXV-TV, which in September announced it would feature KMLE-FM’s morning personalities Tim and Willy on the television station’s newscast, “ABC 15 Daybreak.” In exchange, KNXV’s weather updates are aired on the radio station. September also saw the union of Boston’s WCVB-TV with WWZN-AM. The television station currently simulcasts its 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. broadcasts on the radio station. “We see this as a public and community service, as well as a promotional collaboration,” Neil Ungerleider, executive editor of WCVB told the Boston Globe. “We are reaching people who are not at home to watch television at that time.” The Globe also reported that it would also help build awareness for the radio station. Earlier in July, KJRB-AM started simulcasting news reports from KHQ-TV. Under the deal, the radio station would air the television station’s “KHQ Local News Today” and “KHQ Local News at Five.” KHQ also provides reports to the other stations in the Mapleton-Spokane cluster.
While such partnerships can save money and possibly save a flailing station, Papper said that the loss of independent voices in any given area is bad. “But sometimes all we have is a choice among negatives. We’re poorer for having fewer choices, but we’re poorer still if we lose a voice completely,” he said.
As we head into 2010, the question is whether these partnerships will continue and what the final outcome for local broadcast news becomes. Papper said he’s not sure. Since the country is in the midst of a recession, businesses everywhere are looking for ways to save money, but the partnerships may turn out to make more of a problem than they’re worth, he said. “The other question, of course, is whether in better economic times, competitors will still be interested in sharing,” he said. Another element is the country’s communication regulations. “In these hard times, it’s easy to understand the hands-off approach that both are taking. But when the economy improves, it’s possible that both the FCC and Congress will take a harder and more questioning look at what’s going on,” he said.
— Katrina M. Mendolera
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