Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Couple From Julie, And One More

After checking our TV sets, we're sure we're ready for the digital TV conversion in February. (Well, we were actually sure of that long ago.) More on that, later.

We're still not ready for the Cleveland Plain Dealer's, though we did happen to find a couple of local TV-related stories from PD media writer Julie Washington under - oddly enough! - the "Entertainment > TV" tab.

We're not sure if either of these stories has made print, yet, since that's become virtually impossible to figure out that answer without hoofing it to the local convenience store and picking up a copy of the PD, but here goes...

ADDING LYDIA TO THE LIST: Washington confirms what we reported back in November, when names of laid off staffers at Cleveland Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 started coming out from inside 13th and Lakeside.

WKYC reporter/weekend anchor Lydia Esparra is the final to confirm that she's becoming a former member of the "Channel 3 News" of five on-air staffers who won't be getting their contracts renewed. Esparra's last day is next Tuesday, December 23rd.

This was kind of "no surprise", aside from our own reporting last month. The station had earlier confirmed that the weekend evening newscasts would be anchored solely by veteran newsman Jeff Maynor, who's abandoning his weekend morning anchor shift.

Esparra's former weekend evening co-anchor, Chris Tye, is back to a regular reporting shift. Maynor's former morning co-anchor Kim Wheeler will still be there - but she'll now anchoring alone, as well.

The PD's Washington reports that Esparra has some very interesting post-WKYC plans:

Esparra will be able to realize her dream of filming a documentary about her family's journey from Puerto Rico to Youngstown, where she was born.

"I'm really pumped up about that," Esparra said. She'll continue as a free-lance producer for "The Today Show," and teach media relations at the Law Enforcement Education Center at Kent State University.

We had no idea, by the way, that she had any connection with NBC's "Today Show", let alone Kent State...

CHANGES AT 5: Julie Washington also catches up with Viki Regan, the general manager at Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 "NewsChannel 5" - basically the only Cleveland market TV newsroom so far untouched by layoff notices.

And Washington reports that Regan, who took over WEWS after a stint running a West Palm Beach FL station, has some ideas for a "legacy" station she tells Washington - quote - "has been living off its laurels and isn't reaching its potential":

Regan and news director Jill Manuel, who came on board in August, are trying to retrain their staff to think differently about news content and how people access it.

Manuel, who came to "NewsChannel 5" from Chicago's 24-hour cable news channel CLTV, points out one change coming next month...with investigative reporter Duane Pohlman churning out "daily investigative reports", as opposed pieces that are geared towards airing in series during "sweeps" ratings periods, after long, off-air investigation.

Of course, Cleveland recently switched its ratings measurement to the full-time "people meter" system, with more frequent ratings, rendering "sweeps" less important.

Pohlman has done "on the fly" investigative pieces before, including in the runup to this year's November election.

The station is also touting more frequent traffic and weather reports in "Good Morning Cleveland" (with new anchor team Pete Kenworthy and Kimberly Gill now in place), with "Google-style" traffic maps.

And like some other local stations have done, to some degree, WEWS promises more interactivity, using popular social networking services like Facebook and Twitter. (The aforementioned WKYC/3 has "official" pages on both services.)

Oh, that, and the old-fashioned TV stuff mentioned earlier...

AND NOT RELATED TO MS. WASHINGTON, BUT...: A brief take on Wednesday evening's "digital TV soft test", at least in Cleveland, at least from our viewpoint as a local cable subscriber.

It was no surprise to see the 5 minute message loop on ION O&O WVPX/23, even on cable.

As we noted in our previous update, WVPX has no digital signal alternative right now...which for our purposes, means that unless it fed cable systems via fiber (we're pretty sure it doesn't), cable viewers on our Cleveland-based Time Warner Cable system and elsewhere would get the analog loop.

A quick run through the local OTA channels on our cable box showed no other station improperly passing through the message to those who won't lose the station in February - due to being cable subscribers.

It also showed something an OMW reader pointed out to us - at least a couple of analog stations that had been fed to Time Warner Cable off of their over-air signals are now using, we believe, center-cut pictures from their digital/HD feeds downconverted for analog viewers.

Those two stations were ideaStream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 and CW affiliate WBNX/55. The digital sides of both stations are present in the TWC lineup already (channels 411 and 407, respectively).

This means that some time very recently, WVIZ-DT converted its 25.1 digital signal from the fading PBS HD national feed, to a locally-broadcast HD/SD upconverted feed - much like the area's other PBS station, Western Reserve PBS did a ways back.

For those who haven't heard, the PBS HD 24/7 feed is being discontinued nationally. PBS' HD programs will appear mixed in with the regular digital feed now.

And that brings another question - do either of the local PBS affiliates have the ability to record and time-shift PBS HD offerings out of their normal "live" feeds?

This could turn into a similar situation to the one that has faced commercial that a number of syndicated offerings are offering HD feeds...


Anonymous said...

This comment is in regards to last night's DTV test.

I am a DirecTV subscriber. Just for everyone's information, I did not get the failure signal for WVPX. The only failure signal was for WVIZ (and you guys have documented their problems with the DTV signal well).

n-dizzle said...

On TWC, we only had the "failure signal" on WVPX. WVIZ came in fine, since WVIZ DT swutched to analog simulcast sometime overnight. On Tuesday evening WVIZ was still the different HD feed.

AFAIK, neither can record HDTV and timeshift. I have seen both pass HDTV from the network(like the News Hour or primetime shows) but everything else has been SDTV.

Which opens another can of worms with WNEO/WEAO. WNEO-DT does not show SD programming in original aspect ratio. All PBS programming that is shown letterboxed is "expanded" to fill the screen. Except instead of being 16x9, there is a small frame of black space around the picture. The PQ on these programs is terrible. WVIZ is keeping programming in OAR and the PQ looks much better on WVIZ.

AFAIK, on TWC both PBS, CBS, FOX, CW, MNTV, WDLI are taken from digital feeds. Only WOAC and WQHS are "up in the air", but I'd assume they're still analog as neither channel went off air last night at 7:31. WKYC and WEWS must be fiber feed since WEWS on cable is still using the same feed as analog OTA and WKYC is still using NBC's analog feed. Programming on WKYC is letterboxed from NBC, which means the digital feed in not being used for SD.

Ohio Media Watch said...

n-dizzle, can you tell us what kind of shows you're talking about? I'd like to pass along the information to the Western Reserve PBS folks, and I'm assuming you're talking about HD shows that are currently being timeshifted/downconverted in SD by them...right?

--The Management