WBAL-TV to cancel its 5 p.m. newscast

July 13, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

WBAL-TV will cancel the 5 o'clock newscast it has aired for the last six years and replace it with reruns of "The Golden Girls" and "Who's the Boss?" Sept. 2, the station announced yesterday.

Channel 11 officials said yesterday that the cancellation will not result in newsroom layoffs and did not signal a cutback in commitment to news.

"We are expanding the half-hour of news at 6 to an hour and we are focusing all our [early news] resources into that," said station manager Joe Heston.

Channel 11 is in last place at 5 p.m., trailing Channel 13's first-place lineup of "The Cosby Show" and "Night Court" reruns and Channel 2's newscast. At 6 p.m., Channel 13's news leads, with Channel 2's newscast second and Channel 11 finishing third.

The move, which is part of Channel 11's new fall scheduling strategy, will leave Baltimore with only one newscast at 5 p.m. -- on WMAR-TV (Channel 2). "We're thrilled to have the field all to ourselves at 5," Channel 2 General Manager Arnold J. Kleiner said yesterday when informed of Channel 11's announcement.

The change will result in the layoff of the 5 o'clock director's position, which Heston termed a "non-news, support position." General manager Phil Stolz said the cancellation did not contradict Channel 11's promotion of itself as Baltimore's "24 Hour News Station."

"We are positioning our news programs where viewers have indicated to us they need news," he noted. Both Stolz and Heston pointed to an expanded lineup of news updates every hour slated to begin in August and the hourlong newscast that Channel 11 began this year at 6 a.m. Overall, each of the three network affiliates will devote equal amounts of air time to news each weekday.

Even though Channel 11 will be going head-to-head with top-ranked Channel 13 during the dinner hour, Heston said there was more potential for ratings growth with news at 6 than there is at 5. That's the reason for the change, he said.

"There's a larger news audience at 6; that's a fact," Heston said. "To go up against another newscast at 5 [when the audience is smaller] is just not as tactically savvy."

The present 6 o'clock anchor lineup -- Pat Minarcin and Rod Daniels as anchors, Vince Bagli on sports and Tom Tasselmyer on weather -- will remain intact, he said. Camilla Carr, who co-anchors the 5 o'clock news with Daniels, will continue as co-anchor at noon and as a featured reporter at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Other major changes starting in September include "The Maury Povich Show" replacing "A Current Affair" weekdays at 4 p.m. and "The Jenny Jones Show" replacing "Geraldo" at 10 a.m. The expansion of the 6 o'clock newscast will push the start of "The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., shifting "Hard Copy" to 7:30 p.m.

Channel 11 will carry two reruns a day of "Who's the Boss?" through December -- one at 5:30 p.m. and another at 11:30 p.m. where it currently airs. In December, Arsenio Hall's late night show will join the Channel 11 lineup, replacing the second "Who's the Boss?" rerun.

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