Alan Frank Signs OffThe television world loses one of its giants as Post-Newsweek chief, and local broadcasting legend, wraps up a colorful career 12/17/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Alan Frank, president and CEO of Post-Newsweek and one of
the most influential figures in local broadcasting, wraps up a
standout career in television at the end of the year. Since taking
over the station group in 2000, following a colorful run turning
WDIV Detroit into a leader, Frank fashioned Post-Newsweek
into a collection of top-flight news outfits and fierce allies for the
communities in which they are licensed. He was also a vital voice
for local broadcasters in Washington, D.C., and for affiliates in
the network meetings on the coasts as well.
“I’ll cherish his friendship, and the NAB family
will never forget his years of distinguished service on
the board of directors and his advocacy on behalf of
broadcasters across America,” says Gordon Smith, National
Association of Broadcasters president and CEO.
This distinguished service got the 68-year-old Frank
inducted into the B&C Hall of Fame this year. The universally
respected TV executive, who has been training
Emily Barr to run the Post-Newsweek group, spoke
with B&C deputy editor Michael Malone about his
time in broadcasting, and his time after broadcasting.
How has the role of local TV changed since you
There was a moat around local television in those
days, depending on the company you were with. I
was with Group W and then Post-Newsweek, and we
did a tremendous amount of local production, and it
wasn’t news. It wasn’t until the mid-’70s that news
really became an entity in and of itself. News used to
report to the programming department; now there is
no programming department. It wasn’t live, because
we didn’t have mini-cams. It was a different day and
time. The energies of the local station were a daily
talk show—some stations had more than one—music
shows, comedy shows, traffic court, quiz shows, Bowling
for Dollars, travel shows, children’s shows. A lot of
your identity came from your local production—the
local things certainly helped establish a brand much
more than news did.
There didn’t used to be a [local] morning news—it
started with the Today show at 7. Then you did a halfhour
at 6:30 in the morning, then you expanded to 6,
then you expanded to 5:30, and 5, and now it’s 4:30
or 4 [a.m.]. It was just a different time. You weren’t
on 24 hours a day. You’d play “The Star
Spangled Banner,” have footage of jets
streaming, and the station went off the air.
With all the changes, is a good TV
station a larger or smaller part of
people’s lives now?
There was a point, I would say, in the
’80s and ’90s, when local broadcast television
was really the choice. All the other
choices weren’t there. Starting in the
mid-’90s, the other cable channels, then
satellite channels, started catching on. In
some ways it mirrors retailing. It used to
be every town had its neighborhood with
local shops. You go to many cities in this
country now and you can’t tell where you
are. You walk up and down the shopping
areas, and it’s all the same retailers. Having
news now distinguishes a local station,
though in most markets, only two
or three are really distinguished.
What’s your biggest regret as you step down?
That I never worked directly for Broadcasting & Cable.
[Laughs] I don’t have big regrets. There were many
different paths I could’ve taken, but you choose your
path, and I’m happy with mine. I don’t have regrets
What does retirement hold—travel, relaxation,
that sort of thing?
All those things. A number of people have told me
they’re surprised that I’m [retiring] because I didn’t
seem to slow down. I know myself and I’m a guy
who’s all-in—it’s just the way I do things. I decided
when the Army was happening for all of us in the
’60s—I could’ve gone to the Reserves, but I went in
full-time. I wanted to get it over with—I wanted to
have it happen. So I don’t want to do something parttime.
I’ve been very involved up until the end, then I
intend to be very not involved.
Will you take on some business ventures?
I have a number of ideas and I’m not sure whether
I’ll do any of them. A number of people have talked
to me, and there are some interesting things. I just
want to take six months and do nothing and see what
After that, do you think
you’ll run a station or two?
No. I would do something
totally different if I did
How will Post-Newsweek
be different with Emily
Barr in charge?
Everyone has their own style.
I followed Bill Ryan, who was
an astoundingly great CEO.
I did it somewhat differently
from him, and I’m sure Emily
will do it differently than me.
My assumption is that the values
will stay the same, because
I know Emily rather well. After
that it depends on the circumstances
and where the industry
goes and other things,
but I think it will be the same
values for the stations.
What’s your proudest moment, professionally?
[Pauses] I don’t know. I’m proud of the success our station
group has had. I’m very proud of WJXT [Jacksonville]
and the success they’ve had as an independent.
It’s a very unique station in the country. [WJXT split
with CBS in 2002.] I’m proud of WDIV, a station I had
a lot to do with building and determining its character
and culture and putting together the team and overseeing
that team to re! ect the Detroit market. I’m very
proud of the other stations and what we’ve done there,
and the stations we acquired in the mid-’90s. [KSAT]
San Antonio is a big No. 1, and our station in Houston
[KPRC], the last two years, has become very close to
No. 1. They’re very successful, and I feel very good
about that. There’s been a lot of success.
Will you miss hearing and using terms like
“retrans” and “FCC” and “spectrum”?
You left out root canal. [Laughs] You know what, a lot
of people complain about Washington, but I don’t. It
is what it is. I spent a lot of time on the Hill and with
the FCC, chatting with the great folks of the NAB—
Gordon Smith and the spectacular team he has put
together. It’s part of what we do, and if we don’t do it,
shame on us. You have to be involved, and so I don’t
mind it at all…I didn’t mind it.
You’ve got to start talking in the past tense.
Yeah. There you go.
You’ve made a lot of friends over the years in
I really did—a lot of people I really like, that I hope
I’ll stay close with…that I know I’ll stay close with.
Some of them retired years ago, and we’re still close—
and I intend to do that. I was, for a minute and a half,
in national syndication, and enjoyed it a lot. But I
loved local broadcast—it was a place where you could
really make a difference. Local stations—our local stations—
made a difference. We made a difference in the
community with the quality of our news, the quality
of our commitment, the quality of what we did in the
community, the contributions we made. It was very
fulfilling, and I enjoyed it immensely.
I feel lucky about it. Actually—I feel real lucky. I
wandered into television and I feel lucky that I was
able to carve a career out of it. One of the things I say
when I talk to college students is, if you don’t have a
passion for the business, get out of it, because there
are people lined up who would love to be in it. If
you really do have a passion for it, it’s a great place