SagamoreHill Broadcasting’s WLTZ-TV (Ch. 38, NBC) Columbus, GA last broadcast a local newscast under a former owner in 1993. But local news returned yesterday evening, thanks to a content-sharing deal with McClatchy’s Ledger-Enquirer and anchors via satellite. The newspaper had already dipped its toe into video, producing a web-only newscast three times a week. Those resources are now being redirected to the joint venture with WLTZ. The station has hired three local reporters to team with the newspaper’s 55-person newsroom. Their reporting efforts will be packaged and anchored from Des Moines, IA by Independent News Network, which specializes in working with local stations to produce low-cost newscasts. The deal calls for two 30-minute newscasts daily at 6:00 and 7:00 pm, sandwiching the "NBC Nightly News," plus "11 at 11," a short 11-minute newscast at 11 pm.
The new venture will be going up against tough competition from the market’s heritage VHFs, Media General’s WRBL-TV (Ch. 3, ABC) and Raycom’s WTVN-TV (Ch. 9, CBS), which also produces a 10:00 pm newscast under a shared services agreement for Southwest Media Holdings’ WXTX-TV (Ch. 54, Fox).
TVBR/RBR observation: We are once again reminded of the disconnect between Washington lawmakers, lobbyists and regulators and reality when it comes to television outside the top 20 markets. No doubt many Members of Congress and perhaps even some FCC Commissioners believe that every ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliate in the United States has a newsroom. Back when there were only three stations in most markets, it was usually the case that you had three TV news operations. That has long ago ceased to be the case. Adding Fox and then a couple more English networks (not to mention Univision and Telemundo as well in many markets) to the mix sliced up the local advertising pies to the point where many markets, such as Columbus, GA, had only two TV newsrooms. Getting back to three requires this innovative deal with the local newspaper. If anything, this certainly argues the case for eliminating the crossownership rule.