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Belo Launches Hi-Def News in Dallas

On Friday morning, WFAA became the first station to broadcast high-definition news in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, and the 29th station nationwide to offer HD newscasts.

The Belo station and ABC affiliate is now producing 5.5 hours of news each weekday, and 2.5 hours on Saturdays and Sundays, using its new "Victory Park" high-definition studio located outside the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas, home of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and NHL's Dallas Stars. The new facility, which went on air last month, features a glass-enclosed street-level studio and is connected via fiber to a control room at WFAA's main facility a few miles away.

WFAA's weekday HD news programming includes Daybreak, a two-hour morning show that leads in ABC' hi-def Good Morning America; the one-hour Good Morning Texas at 9 a.m.; a one-hour noon news; and 30-minute newscasts at 5, 6 and 10 pm.

The decision to tackle HD news was based on recent CEA research on HDTV set sales as well as "all the people calling me directly" about WFAA's HD plans, says president and GM Kathy Clements.

"It's a lot," says Clements, who says she has also been trading many emails with eager HD viewers.

WFAA spent millions on the HD upgrade, says Clements, including upgrading its helicopter to HD and installing robotically-controlled HD "tower cams" in different downtown locations; one provides a shot from the W Hotel across the street looking down at the Lincoln Park studio. Live shots from the field are produced in standard-definition widescreen and upconverted, a practice that WFAA will continue for the foreseeable future due to the high cost of upgrading HD field operations. WFAA will have a few "floating" HD cameras in the field to produce special taped segments, adds Clements.

The shots from the helicopter camera during WFAA's inaugural 5 a.m. HD newscast were particularly impressive on a wintry morning in Dallas, says Clements.

"There was a little bit of ice and snow on the ground, and it was absolutely beautiful."