Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Nexstar's Campaign to Preserve Local TV

In the past weeks I have seen and gotten several e-mails wanting to know what the heck the "Preserve Local TV" spots have been about. Just today I ran across an article on the subject written by Nexstar owned KTAL's General Manager Scott Thomas. This article is from nwlanews.com:

"In the coming weeks and months the FCC will begin wrestling with the complex issue of media ownership. The question the FCC is seeking to answer: “How many TV stations can one company own?”

This issue is complex with billions of dollars and thousands of jobs hanging in the balance. The current regulations were originally drafted in 1953 and are to say the least, outdated.

Today’s complex world of ever changing telecommunications is well beyond the scope of the original legislators imaginations. These antiquated regulations are inadvertently limiting broadcasters’ ability to compete and must be changed.

Why should you care? Well.....if you like seeing local news you better care.

Can you imagine a time when you turned on your TV in search of Local News or weather and there was none — or there was just one local source.

This seems unthinkable. Maybe in the Middle East, or Europe, but not in the good ole US of A. Not in the vast 500 channel universe of National cable and satellite TV.

How could that happen? Is something like that even possible? As far fetched as that may sound, the answer is Yes.

Believe it or not this scenario is actually a reality for many Americans now. If the FCC doesn’t do something soon, more Americans will begin to see less local news. Currently, there are 15 TV markets that only have one news station and 113 markets that only have two news stations.

Why is local news at risk? The FCC is regulating it to death. Television news production is a very expensive proposition. In a medium sized market like ours, we invest well over two million dollars a year with over 40 employees to put a quality product on the air.

We can do that because we’re part of a financially healthy television group. Many weaker stations across the country have simply given up and gotten out of the news business.

This has happened in cities like St. Louis, Mo. and Billings, Mt. When the local stations are gone, what’s left? Fox news and CNN. How many interviews have you seen with your local Mayor on Fox News? Zero.

With so much at stake the debate is growing vociferous. There are those who argue against multiple station ownership. Special interest groups say media monopolies would arise and the public would be manipulated.

Fifty years ago that would have been a pretty good argument. But in this day and age it simply doesn’t hold water. Even if somebody wanted to hatch an Orwellian “Control the Media” conspiracy, it would be an impossible task. There’s just too much content for any one entity to control. Besides, a successful media monopoly would also have to control print and the worldwide web.

James Quello was an FCC Commissioner/Chairman for over 23 years. At the beginning of his tenure he was a staunch defender of media regulation. He says it’s time for change, “Telecommunications in America have drastically changed... thus necessitating a more practicable marketplace approach to government regulation and legislation.”

So why should the FCC change its rules and let companies own more stations? The answer is simple. It’s in the best interest of the people served by those stations.

Healthy ownership groups don’t abandon news. In fact, they embrace it. Since its creation ten years ago Nexstar Broadcasting Group, KTAL’s parent company, has brought news to eight stations that previously had no news product and increased news production in 25 other markets.

Here in our market we produce over a thousand hours of local news every year. In the process we employ over forty professionals. Those are good jobs that support forty families and pump money into our local economy.

In the end the decision is up to the FCC. I think responsible media groups are good for television. I think multiple station ownership will protect and improve local news. I think it will help stations improve their ability to bring more news to the people they serve. I think it will be good for America. If you think like I do, let your legislators know. Go to PreserveLocalTV.com and let your voice be heard."


At 6:29 PM, October 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All Scott Thomas is concerned about is his bank account. (maybe his kinky hair as well) The guy runs a station on a shoe string budget. I know for a fact that 40 families are living at or near the poverty level while Mr. Thomas and the other fat cats at Nexstar are bringing home hefty pay checks.

At 7:10 PM, October 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't be nice if Nexstar could only own one station? Why own 20 stations and milk them so dry that the product sucks and the people that work thier are poor and treated badly? Scott Thomas is hated by literally everyone at channel 6. He makes peoples lives so miserable trying to manage the news department. He needs to stay in his office and let the NEWS DIRECTOR do his job. As long as he is that 6, that station will not grow. he is the cancer that nobody talks about.

At 11:17 PM, October 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is suppose to be about local stations and ownership not some GM at Channel 6. Why don't you whinny news folks get back to work. Your paycheck is what your worth. If you don't like the amount then get a real freaken job and go sell something.

Hugs and kisses
Sales People

At 12:59 AM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty funny stuff. Yep, preserve local news indeed. Preserve it so Nexstar can buy it all, then kill it by killing newswires, fluffing the content, generally sending it down the toilet. This is all part of Nexstar's continuing lobbying efforts to get slide room on DTV and a relaxation on FCC ownership rules before the "unfriendlies" take over Congress in January. Don't be fooled -- they couldn't care less about local news, they just want to have a chance to become as much of a monopoly as the feds will allow. If you think you're supporting local television by supporting Nexstar, you've got it dead wrong.

At 2:01 AM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, we're getting the same rhetoric up here in NW Arkansas. Nexstar has taken control of both the NBC and FOX affiliates up here, and the head man at KNWA does this "PSA" that whines local news will be a thing of the past if Congress has its way.
Might be more credible if they'd hold on to experienced news anchors and quit this Arkansas trend of promoting sports guys to anchor.
Matt Turner's a nice enough fellow, but he's lacking anchor skills. Of course, so did Dana ("Cedars-SINai"), and they promoted her to the FOX station anchor. Wish she'd do her homework.
Then again, you apparently have to be born-again (from DUI scrapes) to be a sports guy at KNWA. Matt probably didn't fit the profile.
For the record, the new guy Jesse is awful. He makes Dale Nicholson look like Dan Patrick in comparison. Hopefully he'll get better or one of the guys at 40/29 will get fired and they can catch on at KNWA.

Newsman/Sportsfan who takes it seriously

At 11:20 AM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typically, I wouldn't have an issue with this.

The problem comes in if there's a case like KNWA, when they're showing these commercials in Fort Smith...and their news is anything but local for River Valley/Oklahoma folk.

People in the River Valley are typically jealous of Northwest Arkansas and don't want to hear about it.

At 11:22 AM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nexstar is the devil. I interned for them last semester and I can tell you that when I graduate I will work for any company besides them.

At 11:44 AM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And you think the New York Times, Hearst,Clear Channel, Gannett and so on are any better. Come on people, I can reference several comments throughout this blog where people that even work at these stations think that the owners or management is out to get them. You are all kidding yourselves if you think it will get better as these huge companies buy up all the mom and pops. It happened in radio first and killed it. Start getting use to it or get out of the business. Whatever you do just quit bitching!

At 2:26 PM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bitching? Take a closer look at what we're talking about, numbskull. No one says the other companies are all the wonderful, but if you have a number of them that own stations, it's better for the viewers, better for business, and better for tv people who'd like to get jobs. If Nexstar owns everything, tell us how you think that's good, because that's what the company wants to do in the name of saving "local" tv news. You wanna work for no one but Nexstar? Fine, but don't expect everyone else to sit by while they lie about what it is they want to accomplish.

At 5:38 PM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's get back the sales department at ktal being so great on the 11:17pm post. If it wasn't for Ivan Smith, there would only be "Trust Todd" adds. Go get a political add from Shreveport, then tell me to go sale something.

Really works for a paycheck w/o kissing ass

At 5:49 PM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

KTAL could be the worst station in the country. Ask any employee if they like thier job? The difference in Gannett, Clear Channel, or Hurst is that they care about what they put on TV. They have live trucks, Sat. Trucks, Reporters on assignment, real studios, good sets, people stay longer. Go to KARK in Little Rock and ask those people if they like thier job? Then go ask the Allbritton group at KATV employees if they like it? You will get 2 seperate answers, and KARK's AIN't good.
Maybe KTAL will go away, and the people that work there can go get better jobs at real stations.

At 9:51 AM, October 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people are so easily distracted by shiny objects, I am surprised you can type a legible sentence and more so that you have jobs. The FCC and their regulations are the point of the piece. Truth is: The FCC WILL do whatever makes the most MONEY. The FCC WILL NOT do what is best for the public airwaves. The FCC WILL NOT do what makes sense. As with all government agencies charged with the oversight of something, that something is no longer yours or the public's. That something becomes a government controlled money making, money spending, jealous, militant bureaucracy. If you think the FCC is doing anything for the public good, you are blind and deaf. Have cell phones gotten better? Do you have an HDTV? Then the one you have will not pick up ANY tv in 2009, local or not! Thank you very much FCC. May I have some more screwing? Thank you very much FCC. May I have an other?

At 10:51 AM, October 26, 2006, Anonymous JC said...

Nexstar=public good? NO

Cheap money hungry companies vs the FCC. Sounds like the winner is still a loser.

At 9:21 PM, October 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 9:43 PM, October 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, very neat-o! Call the FCC the devil and decry federal regulation all in one breath. Look, you supply-siding fool, the problem isn't with government regulations -- it's when those regulations don't do anything to serve the public good, like fining people half a million dollars for "obscenities" on-air. What good does that do? But hey, it was a wonderful regulation supported by all the supply-side economics freaks. However, isn't it right to demand the FCC do it's job and help regulate the public airwaves? Remember, the original concept considered those airwaves like a public park -- they belong to everyone and there has to be some accountability in how they are used. What the hell has getting rid of the Fairness Doctrine done that's positive? If you think getting rid of the FCC will help so much -- just consider this: it'll leave companies like Nexstar the opportunity to gobble up every small station in every corner of the country, and with that companies notorious "who gives a shit" attitude toward news, you just got that many million more people who don't know what the hell is going on in their own backyards, courtesy of newscasts bottom-lined to death and fluffed out more than Ron Jeremy before a vid-shoot. And, Mr. Salesperson, who seems to think he's beyond reproach and that newspeople don't amount to much and shouldn't make much money -- that's what makes the sales. The days of decent news operations as money losers is beyond. You and your like should continue to stay the hell out of the newsroom and never pretend you have the training or the experience to open your yap when it comes to a profession you can't practice. Keep "kissing those asses" and earning your own pay and let those of us in the newsroom do our work. Without us, you sure as hell wouldn't have a lot of luck selling some of the crap coming from the nets during prime-time to any local car dealers.

At 3:40 PM, October 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is just stupid! Some of the highest cash flowing stations are one's without news. I never said that News was important, I just said it doesn't pay the bills. News is a great product to sell but it is what it is "a product". We still have several other dayparts that we make money with and those dayparts don't bitch about how they are so mistreated.

At 3:51 PM, October 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooops! Before I piss off all of you in news, I meant to say not important in the above post.

At 11:26 PM, October 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

News done well can generate millions for stations. Plus, the return on investment for a successful news operation is extremely high.

Is it possible to run a successful station without news? Yes, of course.

Will a station with a successful news operation generate far more in revenue and profits than one without? Yep. That's true too.

Here is the rub. News can amount to 50-70% of the revenue at a station with a successful news operation. That is a tempting number to try to play with in order to drive up revenue in order to reach the next budget target. Managers who have no experience or training in running a news operation and no background in journalistic ethics begin to blur ethical lines and cheapen quality newscasts. As a result, viewers see declining value in their local newscasts and viewing decreases. These same managers then blame the news people for not producing news that people will watch. It is a proverbial catch 22.

As for quality news being a product, why don't you ask the viewers of WWL in New Orleans if it was a "product" when Katrina hit?

For me, that is a huge problem. Viewers see news not as a product, but as a community service. Many tv executives, however, see it as a product and nothing more. It is funny, though, that in virtually any market you pick in America, the station with the longest commitment to quality news and community service almost invariably also leads in profitability. Why? Because they recognize that news is more than just a product. It is an obligation to the community that, when done well, also generates amazing profits.

As for Nexstar's thoughts, do you really think if they get the rule changes they want, they won't immediately sell out to the highest bidders in their markets?

At 1:23 AM, October 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"News is a great product to sell but it is what it is "a product". We still have several other dayparts that we make money with and those dayparts don't bitch about how they are so mistreated."

So, there -- you just continue to prove my point, Mr. Salesman. As the poster after you said, it is much, much more than a "product" but that's all you see it as. We don't have a problem with you seeing it that way, that's what you get paid to do, but when you step "off the reservation" and start trying to talk about things you either don't understand, or about which you don't have the qualifications to speak, you screw up. Is it even worth talking about the "fourth estate" or the first amendment to you? Do decades of jurisprudence and legal thinking in this country mean anything to you. And what about the idea of a free press (yeah, the Supreme Court includes TV news in that category -- but not sales...) being vital to the education of the public, and the public's education being vital to their knowledge at the ballot box, and their votes being what drives a free nation...you can see how those are linked together, but really all you can see is the "product." It means more than that to the people who've spent years writing, reporting and caring about the news -- to the people who think of news as more than a simple product you can wrap in cellophane and put on damn day-old shelf in the supermarket. Bean counters like yourself are what have started to kill America, because all you think about is the bottom line, without regard to anything else. Why don't you get your head out of sales and your dollar-signs for a moment or two and look around your community? Maybe you'd actually learn something and maybe we wouldn't have to fight so hard to keep corporations like Nexstar from buying up what's left of a free press before trying to kill it altogether.

At 8:37 AM, October 28, 2006, Anonymous pdiddy said...

The best stations are ran by old anchors, producers, reporters, etc.
A station ran by a sales person is nothing more than a sales station, where the attitude is, "Sales pays your bills." Hey sales guy, news keeps you walking around the halls w/ coffee all afternoon. the sales people in Shreveport are people who's insurance agent or hairstylist dreams were shattered long ago.

At 9:52 PM, October 29, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There you go! Now we're talkin'! I'm going to guess that the last to post actually had to think about what they wrote. Here is what's funny. You both think you're freaken Dan Rather. However, I do have to say that at least you thought for yourselves instead of having your thoughts given to you and not just sticking one of those national news stories on the air with your stations logo on it. Here is the big problem with your thoughts. You hide behind 1st Amendment all the time but then want to tell someone how to run "their" station. You can talk all you want but at the end of the day, it's not your decision. If you used half your time trying to make it better rather than bitching maybe it would be a better place to work. By the way, I would love for you to source some of your thoughts you shared. You obviously have a little deeper background on media profit than the typical news guru.

At 4:58 PM, October 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, and you "last to post" obviously haven't worked in the business (except maybe in sales) or you'd know what the hell we're talking about here - Dan "freakin'" Rather has nothing to do with it. Just how many actual journalists do you know, and we don't mean 20 year olds just out of J-school. Perhaps you should ask one or two who've worked the biz longer than a year, and you'd have some sort of clue. Holy Hepsubah, my friend, don't you know "bitchin'" is a time-honored tradition in the news business? You must be in sales. Stay out of the newsroom, ya grubber.

At 9:05 AM, October 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is the same with all businesses and folk who think they are mistreated. It is funny to read from those who think they are paid at the poverty level. If you don't like it, GET A RATE CARD AND HIT THE STREETS ! Simple really, if you don't like the job, don't take the job. Don't take the job and complain you aren't paid enough and cry that the company that gives you the opportunity is also taking advantage of you.

At 3:41 PM, October 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've mistaken the argument here for one completely about money. The journalists (and there are a couple of them out here) aren't arguing so much about the money, but more about the quality of the reporting and of the practice of their craft. It's unfortunate when the bottom line becomes more important than the responsibility journalists have taken on -- we know businesses are simply that -- there to make a dollar, but the product they put out, i.e., the news, shouldn't have as many roots in the sales side of things -- the less sales and promotion pollution that interfere with the process, the cleaner the journalistic product can become. For the all the whining the sales types have done here, you'd think they want to be on the desk. Jealous you don't have multi-year contracts? Be happy you don't pay agents and lawyers for fight for your value. Perhaps if that's something you had to endure, you'd change your tune.

At 4:49 PM, October 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being on the news side of things does not mean in any way that we are not intellectually capable of understanding the "big picture" and of rising to higher levels of management. Not all companies realize that (Nexstar for example), but that is a weakness they will have to wonder about as their stock prices continue to spiral. Obviously, something isn't going right there.

There is something to be said for running any business right. Television is an industry based on the fundamental concept of providing public service, news and entertainment programming. That is the business model that developed it. That is the business model that made it what it is today. And that is the business model that shows promise for the future. If you are the best at providing those things, you have more ratings points than you know what to do with and the revenue comes pouring in.

Someone asked for some examples, they are out there all over the place. Just go to any market (#1 through #200 or so) and look for yourself. If it is managed well, the #1 station in news is also the #1 producer of revenue in the market and the #1 generator of profit (in terms of dollars and cents, not percentages). A distant #4 with no news can produce a huge profit percentage-wise, which is fine, but that's sort of like comparing Earl's country store to Nieman Marcus.

At 8:22 PM, October 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok then, who would you say has the strongest news base in the Little Rock market? I would love for a news person from each of the stations to chime in. Don't say your name but the station. Please then tell me why the ownership that you work for is more understanding to your needs than the others. The worse thing that could come out of this is that you might see that you should be thankful for what you have. Now let's see if you can set aside your bitterness to try and make a difference instead of bitching. I don't think it's possible.

At 8:48 PM, October 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can set aside competitive differences -- when we participate in AP, SPJ, IRE, even SAG-Aftra when those apply. You'll notice the first three have to do with professional standards and the business of journalism. The fourth is collective bargaining against notoriously cheap, short-changing companies that often hire just about anyone off the street for low pay. Why would journalists not "bitch" about something like that if we have a vested interest in our profession, and in seeing our profession grow, in seeing our own stock and value grow as well? Don't fail to recognize that journalists in many cases (more now than in the past) received specialized training, follow career paths and more now than ever need college degrees in that field of study. Collectively, we've tried to improve our own lot, and improve the quality of the material viewers, listeners and readers consume. So you think we bitch too much? We haven't even started, and if you truly had a profession about which you cared, you'd do (or do) the same thing - it's called acting in one's self interest. You seem to think that it's only OK for the companies to act in their own self-interests, and even excuse them doing so and camoflaging it by trying to tell people that the general well-being and corporate self-interest coincide (always) -- then why do you, unless you are a corporate shill or management, jump down the throats of broadcasters who do exactly the same, and without the corporate double-talk, and without the funding and corporate back-up? If you want to shill for the TV industry, why don't you open your own website like Nexstar, paint a rosey, but unrealistic picture of what you and the other non-journalists do for your customers and leave well-enough alone?

At 10:57 PM, October 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My gosh why rant and rave on and on. Forget being Dan Rather and go straight to being Andy Rooney or Oprah. Just follow the instructions. Forget your name, where do you work. By the way, if you all stick together then why do you slam your brothers and sisters at Nextstar. Once again can you not state your case in a way that's not defensive and tell us all why you like where you work?

At 11:01 PM, October 31, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said. Oh, and by the way, as long as you are mentioning acronyms, don't forget S.A.N.P.W.N.C.O.T.M.W

Self Absorbed News Professionals with No Concept of Today’s Media World


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