Monday, June 9, 2003

Channel 64 debuts weather

Change is in the air at Channel 64. The first inkling of WSTR-TV's new 10 p.m. newscast has hit the airwaves: A weather forecast at 9:58 p.m., before Seinfeld rerun.

"So we now have Cincinnati's first 10 o'clock weather forecast," boasts Merry Ewing, Channel 64 general manager.

So what if it's only 20 seconds long? It's an important first step for the Sinclair Broadcast Group station, which will debut a one-hour newscast on Sept. 2.

Looking at the weather segment, viewers can't tell that it's coming from Sinclair's "News Central" headquarters near Baltimore.

It's also not live, in contrast to weather reports on Channel 19's 10 p.m. newscast, and the three local 11 p.m. newscasts.

Meteorologist Chuck Bell, a 13-year TV veteran, introduces himself as "WB64's chief meteorologist" from Baltimore. (He's also the chief meteorologist for other Sinclair stations.)

Bell stands in front of a map labeling Cincinnati, Colerain Township, Covington, Montgomery, Mason, Evendale, Florence, Covington, Amelia, Batavia, Lebanon and Hamilton. He also does a five-day forecast in the 20 seconds.

"He's our first face," Ewing says. "It's exciting, because it's our first real piece of news to have on the air.

You can expect the other TV stations in town to rip on Channel 64 for having a meteorologist 525 miles away. But that's the way Sinclair has chosen to introduce the city's fifth TV news operation, and the first new TV newsroom since Channel 19 a decade ago.

The local news portions will be inserted into a one-hour Sinclair newscast beamed from "News Central" to Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Rochester, N.Y., Flint, Mich., Birmingham, Ala., and Cincinnati. Ewing is prepared for criticism that her news won't be strictly local.

"We'll have 23 minutes of locally dedicated news and sports in the 'News Central.' That's more time than the other (11 p.m.) stations can put in a half-hour newscast," she says.

A Channel 64 "news manager" - not a "news director" - will be hired by Sinclair's "central casting" news headquarters likely before the end of the month. That person will hire about 20 people, including a weeknight anchor, reporters, photographers, producers and editors.

"We'll have everything that the other guys have," she says.

And here's a warning for Seinfeld fans: The popular sitcom will move from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sept. 2. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

WLW negotiating with Furman

SportsTalk host Andy Furman is talking to WLW-AM (700) management about a multi-year contract, since everyone else at the station has one. His six-year deal expires later this year.

Mike McConnell (9 a.m.-noon) recently signed a long-term contract extension, after the station inked Jim Scott (5-9 a.m.), Bill Cunningham (12:30- 3p.m.) and Gary Burbank (3-6 p.m.) to long deals.

McConnell also hosts The Weekend (noon-3 p.m. Saturday) on WLW-AM and 70 other Clear Channel markets.

"Everyone has been re-upped. We're working on Furball (Furman) now," says Darryl Parks, WLW-AM operations manager and program director.

Viewers love Yankees

The sold-out Yankees-Reds games last week also were a big hit on Fox Sports Net Ohio. The three-game series averaged a 9 rating, or 76,878 Tristate TV households. That was 66 percent over the 5 rating season average for the games announced by George Grande and Chris Welsh.

TV today

• Harrison Ford receives a career achievement award at the World Stunt Awards (8 p.m. USA), attended by Jennifer Garner, Cole Hauser, Carrie-Anne Moss and the Rock.

• Eric Stoltz and Felicity Huffman star in the second episode of Out of Order, a five-week series about a crumbling Hollywood marriage (10 p.m., Showtime).

• Martin Short fans should tune in to Star Close-up: Martin Short (9 p.m., Biography Channel) for his "Martin Short Shorts" impersonations of Robin Williams, Mick Jagger and Hillary Clinton.

• Jesse James' gang converts a Ford Bronco into a rock-climber in Monster Garage (9 p.m., Discovery Channel).


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