Station Break

Dish Bags the Top 75

Norfolk, Va.–Dish Network began satellite delivery of local television channels via satellite earlier this month in Norfolk and New Orleans, the last of the top-75 markets to get the service.

While happy with the decision, WAVY General Manager Ed Munson is left scratching his head over why it took so long. "Why they heck would they add Pocatello, Idaho, [market No. 164] before they added Norfolk [No. 41]?" he wonders aloud.

It's taken nearly five years to reach this milestone. Norfolk has had to wait due to a combination of technical and administrative issues. A satellite operator must reach an agreement with each station owner, and the process can be protracted. DirecTV has offered local service in Norfolk for two years.

Nonetheless, Munson says the change will help broadcasters' local sales efforts against Cox Communications, the market's dominant cable operator. "The more people who pick up a satellite dish, the less they are watching cable," he says. Unlike cable operators, satellite providers don't sell local commercials in competition with television stations.

About 14% of Norfolk households and about 10% of those in New Orleans subscribe to satellite, considerably below the national average. Cable penetration is well above the national norm in both markets.

KNTV Fills In the Blanks

San Jose–NBC-owned KNTV has received permission from the FCC to put up a new tower on a mountaintop just south of the San Francisco city limits. It's a significant move for the station, which has had serious problems getting an over-the-air signal to viewers in the northern fringes of its market. KNTV is licensed to San Jose, about 50 miles southeast of downtown San Francisco.

"It will greatly improve reception of our digital and analog programming throughout the vast geographic region that we serve," says Jay Ireland, president of the NBC Universal station group.

Most Bay Area viewers get their TV via cable or satellite, but more than 200,000 households—roughly equivalent to the population of Boise, Idaho—have neither.

NBC purchased and moved its affiliation to KNTV three years ago after it lost out to Young Broadcasting on a bid to buy longtime affiliate KRON.

Caught in the Middle

WFSB reporter Pei Sze Cheng and cameraman Chuck Callahan were in the right place at the wrong time. The two found themselves in the middle of a breaking news story earlier this month when they happened upon a man being pursued by police. When Callahan grabbed his camera, the suspect pulled a gun.

"He comes up to me and says, 'You now hostage,'" says Callahan, who snatched the weapon and tossed it to Cheng. Police arrived and arrested the man, who they said had threatened to shoot people on the New Haven Green after an argument with his girlfriend. Neither Cheng nor Callahan was hurt.

Other Hartford stations had to dance around the details in their news broadcasts. WTNH, Lin Television's ABC station, referred to "our colleagues at Channel 3," while NBC O&O WVIT ascribed the incident to "a local news crew" and showed distant shots of a WFSB news vehicle.

Help Wanted

Amarillo, Tex.–It's hard enough to hang on to ambitious talent in smaller markets, but Amarillo CBS affiliate KFDA has lost three of its top anchors in less than a month. Weekend reader Amy Sandoval gave notice earlier this month. She's leaving TV and moving to Los Angeles. Noon anchor Christy Bertolino quit in mid-August to go to work for a politician. Natali Chisholm, the 10 p.m. anchor, left when her husband was transferred to California.

"You have no idea what it's like. It's stressful," says News Director Kari King, chuckling in spite of herself. "Everybody pitches in and wears different hats to get the job done. You have to do that in a market this size."

King says she's looking not only to fill the anchor slots, but several openings for producers and photographers. "We're hiring," she says.

KFDA is a CBS affiliate, owned by Panhandle Telecasting.