Thursday, October 15, 2009

WTTG-TV: Anchors Working Teleprompters

The Washington Post reported another sign of the times in local TV news: “The day's news may soon rest in the hands -- and quite possibly on the feet -- of newscasters at [News Corp.’s] WTTG, Channel 5, in Washington.”

In a bid to save money, the station is planning to reassign the technicians who operate the prompters that feed scripted news copy to the anchors while they're on the air. Instead, the station wants its anchors to do the job themselves.

WTTG, Fox 5, intends to train its newscasters to operate prompters using a series of hand levers and foot pedals, all while they're reading the news as it scrolls by.

"Instead of orchestrating coverage, fact-checking, handling breaking news, paying attention to the [newscast], engaging reporters, questioning authorities, covering bad writing and technical mistakes, anchors will now spend most of their time" running the prompter, a newsroom employee told the paper. "It's kind of like a literal one-man band -- singing, banging a drum, crashing cymbals, playing a trumpet and strumming a guitar…except we're not playing show tunes here."

Fox5 News Director Phil Metlin briefly described what the station had in mind in an internal memo last week, said the story. Metlin said reassignment of the prompter operators' work was part of a "corporate directive". Wrote Metlin to his staff: "We have purchased new equipment including foot pedals and hand controls. In the coming weeks, we will begin placing this equipment throughout our studios and we will begin a vigorous training program. Our goal is to use this equipment flawlessly."

WTTG GM Duffy Dyer told The Post his station hasn't decided when it will implement the new system. But he said the anchor-controlled prompters tested well at Fox's station in Austin. "Some anchors and news talent prefer to operate it themselves because they can be in complete control of the speed and the pauses. Maybe this will allow our talent to handle the prompter exactly as they want it."

Hawaii Shared Services Agreement Attracts Attention Of National Watchdog

Stop Big Media is now on the case of the Raycom/MCG shared services agreement in Honolulu, which brings together three stations in the market, including an NBC, a CBS and a MyNetwork TV affiliate.

The shared services agreement (SSA) brings together Raycom’s NBC KHNL-TV and MyNetworkTV KFVE-TV with MCG’s CBS KGMB-TV.

Stop Big Media says that the two companies are simply using the SSA as a tool to accomplish the formation of an illegal consolidation cluster and writes, “…to misquote Shakespeare, ‘A merger by any other name smells just as suspicious.’”

SBM points out that the ownership caps were put in place to make sure that there were many competing sources of news, with different viewpoints, available to the citizens of a given community.

Those are basically the arguments that Media Council Hawaii is taking to the FCC, saying that breaking up the combo “is necessary to protect Hawaii television viewers because if the joint services agreement goes into force, there would be imminent danger of reduced competition, less local news coverage, less diversity of viewpoints and lower quality news programming.”

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