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Consultant: Local TV's woes are self-inflicted


It's not just newspapers that are having tough times these days. Local TV news is also losing eyeballs and money to the Internet. And some of what TV consultant Dick Kurlander cites in a letter to TVNewsday will be familiar to viewers and TV reporters far from his home in the South.

In my consulting travels around the country, and as a viewer here in Charlotte, N.C., I am constantly amazed at the apparent death wish many local stations seem to have. The total news adult 25-54 ratings in most markets have steadily gone down every year for the past 10 years. ....

The death wish is most evident when actually watching a half-hour newscast. Local news is generally defined as crime, car crashes, minor house fires and endless weather hype. It's as if every day is a blank slate on the assignment desk. Whatever is easiest to cover with no real effort or manpower investment is today's news.

Weather has become the dominant content in every Charlotte news program, and this is true in most markets. In a half-hour newscast, there are usually three weather segments adding up to around seven minutes. Super-duper-double-doppler radar, and other weather toys are paraded out every day. .... If there actually is a run-of-the-mill summer thunderstorm around, it's treated like a potential catastrophe. "Chicken Little, the sky is falling" (or will be some time in the next seven days) pretty much sums up most local weather segments.

Then there is the commercial glut.

Our system of commercially supported broadcasting has been a win-win model for the past 60 years. Unfortunately, we're killing it because of the exponential expansion of commercials and promos, particularly on the local level. Many stations air more than 10 minutes of commercials/promos in a half-hour newscast. Some air closer to 12 minutes. "Change the channel" might as well be displayed full screen.

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