Finger on the pulse

Last year, when a new sports arena was finished in downtown Columbus, Ohio, WBNS-TV was there to capture the event. The station wasn't just providing routine news coverage either. It aired a live, one-hour prime time special in HDTV, giving local viewers a sneak preview of the arena prior to its grand opening.

"I enjoy reaching the community with important issues and watching the results of public service campaigns," explains Michael Fiorile, president and CEO of Dispatch Broadcast Group, WBNS-TV's parent.

Dispatch is a small company whose only other TV holdings includes WTHR-TV Indianapolis and an agreement with Paxson Communications to manage WIPX-TV Indianapolis, effective March 1.

"One of the reasons I joined this company was that it is privately held and without debt," says Fiorile. Dispatch is owned by the Wolfe family, which is "very interested in the communities in which we broadcast and re-invests heavily in these [broadcast] properties." The family also owns the Columbus Dispatch. Fiorile reports to John F. Wolfe.

The local broadcaster is proud of the fact that Dispatch's news departments have state-of-the-art technology and that the stations were first on the air in their respective markets with HDTV. The company also owns top-rated syndicated products.

Fiorile is a "high-class, high-gloss operator who runs a very successful enterprise," says Peter Schruth, president of affiliate relations for CBS, who notes WBNS-TV has consistently been a ratings winner. Under Fiorile's tutelage, WTHR-TV, an NBC affiliate, has moved into a more dominant position.

The 46-year-old broadcaster also stays active in industry affairs. He sits on NAB's TV board and serves on the association's DTV committee. And Fiorile is an MSTV executive committee member.

"He has a good sense of the pulse of the TV business," says Leo MacCourtney, president and CEO, Blair Television. MacCourtney praises Fiorile's ability to bring in quality talent. And he believes that Fiorile's dedication to sales training has added to the group's success.

Fiorile, a native of Paulsboro, N.J., is no stranger to hard work. His family ran Fiorile's Bakery, and everybody worked there-"my parents, brothers, sister, grandparents, uncle and cousins."

When he left home for Boston College in 1972, he became interested in philosophy. But after taking a summer job at Videocom, a television production studio in Dedham, Mass., he changed his major to communications.

In 1977 he started as an operations supervisor with WNAC-TV Boston. Three years later, Fiorile joined Telerep in New York as an account executive. But he missed being at a local station.

In 1981, he became national sales manager for KHOU-TV Houston; in 1983, he was general sales manager for KXTV(TV) Sacramento, Calif.

In 1985, he became president, general manager and a partner at WDAU-TV Scranton, Pa. After WDAU-TV was sold, he spent nearly a decade running stations, including WEYI-TV Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Mich.; WLOS-TV Asheville, N.C.; and KOVR-TV Sacramento.

In 1994, he was lured away from KOVR-TV to run the Dispatch Broadcast Group. Other Dispatch operations which Fiorile oversees are: WBNS-AM-FM Columbus; Radio Sound Network, a satellite distribution service for syndicated radio shows; Ohio News Network, a regional cable news channel; Sky Trak Weather, a 24-hour weather channel in Indianapolis; and Dispatch Interactive Television, a wireless interactive TV service.

Working for Dispatch is an ideal, Fiorile says. "Service to the community and being proud of the quality product we put on is every bit as important as being profitable. That's why I am here."