Fox 61 moves to be first with news on TV with 4 p.m. weekday show

 January 21, 2001 | Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)

 | Page: B1 | Section: B1
612 Words | Readability: Lexile: 1070, grade level(s): 7 8 9

Sometimes improving television ratings requires taking risks, like going head-to-head with "Oprah."

WDSI-TV Fox 61 debuted its new "First at 4'' newscast last week in a move it hopes will attract women and shift workers.

The station also dropped its morning and lunchtime newscasts to devote its energies and staffing to producing the 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. Both the afternoon and evening shows precede the newscasts of the three other network affiliates in the area.

WTVC-TV 9 has weekday newscasts at noon, 5, 6 and 11 p.m, as well as news segments during "Good Morning America'' from 6-8 a.m. WRCB-TV 3 features news at 6 a.m. and 5, 6 and 11 p.m. WDEF-TV 12 broadcasts local news at 6 a.m., noon and 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m.

"Going with a 4 p.m. show fits our MO to be the first to bring the news of the day, as does the 10 (p.m. broadcast),'' said WDSI news director Matt Lundy.

Mr. Lundy said the focus of "First at 4'' will be family-oriented features with emphasis on local content.

"We want this program to be more of a news show instead of a newscast,'' he said. "We will still give the news of the day, but we will focus more on lifestyle issues like health, fashion and cooking.

"We will have entertainment pieces and features on how to manage the family budget. We want to highlight local newsmakers.''

Mr. Lundy said "First at 4'' is aimed at women, "but also shift workers and people we believe that have learned to take their TV sets with them to work since the Gulf War and the recent election.

"We really didn't give much consideration to doing a 5 o'clock show,'' Mr. Lundy said. "We wanted to get on early and be the first of the day. At five, truly people are on the road or getting dinner ready.''

The time-slot move pits the show against the popular Oprah Winfrey talk show, which also targets a largely female audience.

"'Oprah' is only putting out 23 new weeks a year. That means half or more will be repeat shows. We think it's a good time to be out there trying to grab market shares,'' Mr. Lundy said.

"She provides national news and talk. Our intention is to provide newsmakers in our own back yard.''

"Oprah" is carried locally by WTVC. The station's news director, Steve Hunsicker, doesn't see the Fox move as direct competition to WTVC's newscasts.

"I think it is probably a wise move for them from a cost-effective standpoint,'' he said. "I don't believe they are promoting it as a hard newscast. It's more of a lifestyle thing. I don't think it affects us. On a personal level, I'm always glad to see more news and hear more voices.''

Dr. Kit Rushing, who teaches mass communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, sees the move as a risk, with similar positives to those expressed by Mr. Hunsicker.

"It's all entertainment. It just depends on what people are going to watch. They are going against some tough competition,'' he said.

Dr. Rushing has taught broadcast journalism at UTC for more than 15 years and said, "The more news in the community, the better. It's a magazine show. I just hope they can do it with the level of sophistication that it deserves. The neat thing is it gives my interns another opportunity.''

Regular features on "First at 4'' will include taped segments from Dr. Dean Odell, Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on Family,'' Father Leo, Hollywood news and "Money Talks'' with Jim Place and Sal Geraci, Mr. Lundy said.

Mr. Lundy said he doesn't foresee his station, or another, going with an earlier broadcast any time soon.

"No, I think 4 is about as early as you can get,'' he said.

Post a Comment