WBFF news will add a 6: 30 p.m. show on WNUV

On the Air

February 16, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

You say you like WBFF, Channel 45's 10 p.m. newscasts, but wish you could watch them over dinner?

As long as you don't mind changing the channel, that shouldn't be a problem.

Beginning April 7, the same news folks you've grown to love and respect on Channel 45 will be putting together a 6: 30 p.m. newscast on WNUV, Channel 54.

Both stations are managed by Sinclair Communications Inc. (which owns WBFF; Glencairn Broadcasting owns WNUV), thus making this unusual arrangement possible. And you thought their only connection was that 45 was simply 54 with the digits reversed!

"We feel that the [earlier] time period is a little more convenient for today's lifestyle," says Steve Marks, regional director and general manager for WBFF/WNUV. "It's a more comfortable time period for people who have to work all day but want to get the kids settled and have a little dinner before watching the news."

The staff had been wrestling with the notion of an evening news broadcast for about a year, Marks says, before making the decision to go in December. WNUV, he adds, will be the first UPN affiliate to air an early-evening newscast. WBFF, a Fox affiliate, began airing its 10 p.m. news in 1991.

But why start now?

"We have a late news [on WBFF], and it has been a very successful enterprise for us," says Marks. "UPN is almost at the same point as when we first thought of putting the news on the Fox affiliate. We saw what putting a newscast on did to our reputation in the community."

The anchor team of Lisa Willis and Tony Harris will pull double-duty and anchor both newscasts Monday through Thursday, says WBFF/WNUV news director Joe DeFeo. Jennifer Gilbert and Craig Demchak will take over Friday and Saturday. The news department at WBFF employs 35 people; adding a 6: 30 p.m. newscast should increase that staff by about five.

The added news operation comes at a cost of about $600,000, split evenly between operating and capital budgets. Both newscasts will share the same new set, to be unveiled in April.

"Even though we're using the same journalists and crew, 'Fox News at 10' and 'UPN News at 6: 30' are going to be two entirely different newscasts with very distinctive looks and feels," says DeFeo. Although hesitant to cite particulars, he says the earlier newscast will be faster-paced and deal with stories at greater length than the 10 p.m. news.

Throwing another newscast into the mix could make things even more interesting in the early evening, where WBAL, Channel 11, and WJZ, Channel 13, have been locked in a see-saw battle for supremacy.

The new show "will either bring new viewers to the set or attract them from existing newscasts," says WJZ general manager Marcellus Alexander, who no doubt is hoping for the latter -- all from WBAL.

For January, WJZ rated first among 6 p.m. newscasts with a 12.7 rating for its 6 p.m.-7 p.m. broadcast. WBAL and WMAR, both of which air half-hour newscasts beginning at 6 p.m., placed second and third, respectively, with ratings of 10.7 and 6.6.

Each ratings point translates to about 9,900 households.

Among late newscasts during the same month, WBFF earned a 7.0 rating for its 10 p.m. newscast. At 11 p.m., WBAL earned an 11.9, WJZ a 10.0 and WMAR a 6.7.

"Competition is good," Alexander adds. "It's what fuels the marketplace and helps keep things interesting. We welcome them into the mix."

Resignation at WMAR

In what could prove only the first of many moves aimed at strengthening the perennially third-place news operation at WMAR, Channel 2, news director Jack Cahalan has announced his resignation.

Cahalan could not be reached for comment. But WMAR general manager Steve Gigliotti, who took over the reins at the station last October, said the decision to leave was entirely Cahalan's. Still, he acknowledged it comes at a time when something needs to be done to attract viewers to WMAR.

Cahalan had warned him of his impending resignation, Gigliotti said, so station management already has started the search for a replacement.

Earlier hour

"Nasty" Nestor Aparicio, one man who seems to have no trouble living up to his nickname, will be inflicting himself on listeners an hour earlier beginning tomorrow.

Aparicio's "Budweiser Sports Forum," which had gone on the air at 5 p.m., will now be heard from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday on WWLG-AM (1360).

Cable expansion

The array of available programming continues to grow at TCI Communications, Baltimore's cable company. Within the past few months, the system has added the Cartoon Network (Channel 45); Animal Planet, a new channel devoted to animals, from the folks who bring you the Discovery Channel (Channel 48); and Plex, which offers movies (Channel 61).

Now, if only TCI could end that awkward arrangement that has Comedy Central and VH-1 sharing the same channel (Channel 34). Come on, there's got to be room on that system somewhere to air both of those channels full-time.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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