TV stations pull festival studios

May 29, 1998 | Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)

 | Page: B1 | Section: B1
384 Words

Chattanooga television stations are taking a less-is-more approach to news coverage at the Riverbend Festival this year. WRCB Channel 3 and WTVC NewsChannel 9 are scrapping their on-site studios in favor of more field coverage. The decision leaves both stations with a less visible presence, but officials say the move will help them provide more complete coverage of activities at the Ross's Landing site. "I think we'll be able to broaden our coverage and be live from more locations instead of stuck in the tent," said Channel 3 news director Bill Wallace. Management at both stations said the decision is based on a belief that newscasts from the festival held too many distractions. Anchors in shorts and polo shirts were often delivering the news as a crowd of onlookers waved, mouthed "Hi Mom" and rabbit-eared their fingers in the background. "We produce a newscast for the viewers; we want it to be watchable," said Channel 9 news director Steve Hunsicker. "After evaluating what we've been doing the last seven years, we felt that all the people standing behind our anchors was distracting to the people at home." Channel 9's decision was aided perhaps by the departure this year of Prebul Jeep as a major sponsor. Both Channel 9 and radio station WUSY-FM US-101 shared tent space with the auto dealership. "It's not like we're boycotting the festival; it's not like we're not going to be there," said Hunsicker. "We're just not going to be there at the level we have been in the past." It's an approach long favored by WDEF Channel 12, which traditionally has relegated Riverbend to breakaway reports. "I don't think we need to be turning over our newscast to them and delivering the news of the day from the festival," said news director Richard Russell. "I think it's extremely distracting. I wonder about credibility for the anchors." Bill Tittle, director of marketing for Friends of the Festival, which produces Riverbend, said festival officials are taking the decision in stride. It's just the next step, he said, in the evolution of TV coverage at Riverbend, which started 17 years ago with the three stations side by side in small tents on the Kirkman hill. "We felt like broadcasting live news with their anchors on site was not really good for us or them, but we didn't mind them doing it," he said.

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