Station Break


Digital displacement

A South Carolina low-power station says it was forced off the air by the digital signal of a full-power station.

GE Media President Greg Everett told FCC Chairman Michael Powell he had to let WPDF-LP Florence go dark after it was denied Class A status and Media General CBS affiliate WBTW(TV)'s digital signal displaced its low-power one. Without Class A protection, a low-power must give way to a full-power station.

Everett, who also owns WFXB(TV) in the same market, told BROADCASTING & CABLE he believes that much of the audience for the station's mix of locally produced religious and sports programming and its Family Network offerings is over-the-air, and that continuing as a cable-only channel isn't practical. Local cable carrier Time Warner says it's negotiating with the Family Network for a direct feed.

"I believe this is a scenario that will undoubtedly be played out many times in the coming months as full-power stations launch their digital channels," Everett told Powell.

Washington attorney Peter Tannenwald, counsel to the Community Broadcasters Association, said, "This shutdown resulted from a regulatory structure and not market forces. The preservation of low-power TV stations, which often do far more than their fair share of local programming, should be a higher-priority agenda item of both Congress and the FCC."

KNTV's Olympic boost

Granite Broadcasting's KNTV(TV) San Jose, Calif., proved that it can garner Olympian ratings, averaging a 22 rating/35 share for the games. Barely a ratings blip before wresting NBC affiliation from KRON-TV, it won in late-night news for February sweeps and was NBC's highest-rated top-10 market in Olympic viewing.

Whether KNTV can hold its Olympic numbers through May sweeps will likely be a challenge for new owner NBC, which is expected to close on the sale April 1. Granite plans to continue its withdrawal from the Bay Area and said it plans to put its WB affiliate there, KBWB-TV, up for sale—along with Detroit WB WDWB(TV). CEO Don Cornwell said he'd like to swap the WBs for a Big Four affiliate in a midsize market.

Kmart no-show

When corporate-turnaround specialist and new Kmart Chairman James Adamson didn't show up for a press breakfast that was planned well in advance and attended by about 30 members of the local and national media, WXYZ-TV Detroit reporter Steve Wilson sat down and ate breakfast anyway, then interviewed Adamson's empty chair for his story.

Local media suggested that Adamson's unexplained absence might have been partially due to Wilson's three-parter on how the bankrupt company was still spending big bucks on bonuses and corporate travel. "Most of the media has focused on the dishonest behavior associated with the Enron failure," Wilson told BROADCASTING & CABLE , but his piece may show that "honest mismanagement can have effects just as devastating."

Following years of litigation against his former employer, Fox Television, over a piece he claimed WTVT(TV) Tampa, Fla., wanted him to slant under pressure from subject Monsanto—the dispute costing him his job, he said—Wilson returned to reporting in Detroit last year. Fox has contested the charge; the mixed verdict is on appeal from both sides.

Doerr exits

Steve Doerr, senior VP for news, programming and creative development, at NBC's station group, left the company last week. Insiders said he was frustrated by cutbacks and had hoped for more investment in programming and news. NBC would say only that Doerr had resigned for personal reasons.

In the enemy camp

Allbritton Communications will combine its Washington, D.C., properties, WJLA-TV and NewsChannel 8, into a single organization. The state-of-the-art facility will be located in Rosslyn, Va.'s Twin Towers—former headquarters for Gannett Corp., owner of rival station WUSA(TV).