Questions about hourly network news

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  RichJohnson 4 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #8824

    johnf
    Participant

    I’ve been wondering something since around the start of the year. There were apparently some changes nationally in the network news world that took place in January.

    First, I think I heard that ABC Radio News went through some kind of “relaunching.” But what exactly did that entail?

    Secondly, I have noticed in spinning around the dial that a number of stations that were carrying what I would describe as some of the traditional news networks (ABC, NBC) no longer are. Instead, they are carrying a generic-sounding UNIDENTIFIED national newscast on an hourly basis, in which the headlines are given, and the announcer gives his or her name at the end, but the news organization is never mentioned.

    I spoke with one local station owner who said that new service is actually from CNN, but that stations are prohibited from identifying it.

    So my other question is — why would that be? I don’t get it! What is the advantage in carrying a newscast that you really can’t promote, because you can’t publicly identify it? And why would CNN choose to operate that way? It makes no sense to me, so if someone could explain, I’d appreciate it.

    #8834

    Andy Brown
    Participant

    “What is the advantage in carrying a newscast that you really can’t promote, because you can’t publicly identify it?”

    Really low cost.

    #8840

    Radiodjm
    Participant

    ABC did a poor job of working with their affiliates on their rollout. Confusing information etc. Westwood One was the previous distributor and offered a service with no equipment change and a lower cost and inventory requirement than ABC had prior.

    #8883

    boisebill
    Participant

    The reason given for no identity is the station can promote the news as theirs. WWO made produced news intros with the stations image available to affiliates. If you’re hearing a dead open into news than it’s just the affiliate being lazy.

    #8888

    johnf
    Participant

    Well, I guess if you are a large metro station, you MIGHT be able to pass off the network news as “theirs.” But even that’s a stretch — you don’t expect a station, for example, in Seattle or Portland to have their own reporter in London or Madrid.

    But if your station is in a very small market, there is no way in the world to convince anyone that the hourly network product is your own, it seems to me.

    Plus, have times changed? — Is it no longer considered “prestigious” to carry a major network affiliation? Are local stations reluctant to promote that they are affiliated with XYZ (or whatever) network? And if so, why?

    And one of my original questions remains — what did the “rollout” of the “new” ABC radio entail? What is different with it now that before 2015?

    #8945

    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    ABC Radio News no longer has a producer. Now the newscasters turn their mikes on and off, play the actualities and spots. You can tell at times when an ABC newscaster will turn their mike on (maybe its triggered automatically) and you hear that sucking sound as the mike strains to pick up any sound in the newsroom. Then you hear the newscaster hit the ABC News sounder button late, like they weren’t watching the time and were proof reading the news copy to get ready. No producer to countdown the seconds and hit the news sounder. It sounds like hell but I’ve noticed after months of this, they’re getting better at covering this up.

    #8992

    bobtrimble
    Participant

    Doesn’t a station get some exclusive market rights to the branded version of newscasts? Even if the same news comes from ABC or CNN it would likely have to be generic or named something else for other stations for rights issues. When I was at KEX we used to have the Portland rights to Paul Harvey and ABC News and by contract no other station within the KEX AM contour could air Paul Harvey and ABC News. Lesser network or generic news feeds are probably available to any station for just playing their spots.

    #9006

    paulwalker
    Participant

    On a recent road trip I noticed this new news service with no ID. They were good, but no ID. They start with two headlines, and then move on from there. I believe Cumulus has adopted this service, but not 100% sure. (Cumulus aquired Citadel in the past year or two).

    EDIT: Yes, this service comes from CNN and replaces ABC. The no tag was done to allow local stations to, well, sound local.

    EDIT 2: Interesting that Cumulus and CNN are both based in the same city…Atlanta. Hmm.

    #9059

    RichJohnson
    Participant

    I hope I can shed some light on a few questions in this thread.
    Yes, the new ‘white label’ newscast is done by Westwood One, using audio from CNN, and produced out of the CBS Washington bureau. There are now more WWO people in that room than there are CBS Radio people.
    ABC News Radio anchors have run their own boards for nearly 30 years. I ran my own, including the sounder exactly at :00:00, back in ’97. There have been exceptions – most notably Doug Limerick and (before him) Joe Templeton, who anchored out of the now-gone ABC News Radio Washington Bureau.
    The ‘producer’ no longer in the ABC mix was known as the Rim Editor. He/she would fact check scripts for three anchors. The Senor Editor now performs that function, I believe.
    Market exclusivity still happens for radio nets. But when ABC was doing three (and at one time seven!) different newscasts, there’s a lot of content sharing. The anchors may be different, but the reporters’ items go on all the nets. Same thing at Fox, which has a five-minute and one-minute service.
    ABC has (or used to have) an automated on/off switch for each net – it would make the appropriate studio ‘hot’ about 10 seconds before the newscast. Sounds like that’s gone away. At Fox, we never had that, and therefore couldn’t rehearse the cast ‘on the board.’ We could, but were told not to in case some station put us on their air. I always contend that… that’s the station’s fault, not ours.

    #9090

    johnf
    Participant

    Thanks, Rich, for chiming in on this. Do you have any particular thoughts on why stations would consider what you call a “white label” newscast that never identifies the news service to be preferable? That still baffles me.

    And in a loosely related though definitely unimportant question, but another that I have still wondered about for a LONG time, where did Westwood One get its name? I have never been able to find an answer to that.

    #9122

    RichJohnson
    Participant

    Much of the industry is also wondering about the wisdom of the ‘white label’ concept. I was talking to a veteran colleague this week who said the only thing he knew after listening to the two-minute cast was the anchor’s name, as he said it three times in two minutes. The current form is very clunky, with the hard one-minute break. I speculate that the idea is to give stations maximum flexibility in how they clear the cast – live at the top or within their own casts.

    I’m old enough to remember that Westwood One was originally headquartered in Westwood, the LA neighborhood that’a also home to UCLA. I believe that’s it. But again… I’m old.

    #9124

    semoochie
    Participant

    That also explains why John Wooden was the “wizard of Westwood”.

    #9127

    paulwalker
    Participant

    Completely unrelated, (or is it?), did anyone realize that the famed Playboy Mansion is less than a mile from the campus of UCLA? I know this because we parked at UCLA and took a bus to the mansion twice when I was a PD that needed to be “influenced”.

    But back (ahem) on topic…I wonder how this new news service will effect the old standard CBS, ABC, and Fox. (Of those three, I hear Fox and ABC the most, CBS is in decline on the radio side, IMO). I am also old enough to remember when NBC ran a top of the hour newscast, there may be a westwood one connection there, but not sure.

    #9129

    semoochie
    Participant

    Yes, Westwood One ran both NBC Radio and Mutual, finally sharing news staff before folding the latter.

    #9132

    johnf
    Participant

    Paul, it was only about a year or two ago that (Westwood One, I assume) discontinued hourly newscasts labeled as being from CNN and replaced them with “NBC News Radio” spots. That marked the return of the NBC name to radio news after more than 10 years.

    For example, Pamplin’s KPAM and KKOV started carrying those NBC newscasts after CBS newscasts went back to KXL. As I recall, KXL dropped CBS back around the time that Dan Rather had his difficulties. That whole controversy did some damage to CBS’s credibility, and I have always assumed that was one factor in KXL switching to Fox News. But now CBS has returned to KXL and the station seems comfortable promoting it, so if CBS is in a decline, I guess I haven’t been aware of it. And Fox News switched over to KXL’s sister station KUFO “Freedom 970.”

    At any rate, I was surprised to see the NBC name on hourly newscasts again retired so soon after coming back into prominence within the last year or so.

    And thanks, Rich, for the explanation about the Westwood One name. I see from Wikipedia that the original Westwood One (which is not to be confused with today’s Westwood One) was founded in the Los Angeles area, so your explanation makes sense.

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