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Charlotte TV stations in DNC no-fly zone

By Mark Washburn

Charlotte television stations already have a parking problem for the Democratic National Convention. Their helicopters land too close to uptown.

A no-fly zone for helicopters during the convention means the stations – which all lie within the banned airspace perimeter – have to move their choppers elsewhere.

“If there’s a story in another part of the viewing area, I want to have our chopper ready,” says Julie Szulczewski, news director for WSOC (Channel 9), whose studios are in the 1900 block of North Tryon Street.

Stations were considering moving their choppers to Concord Regional Airport, about 20 miles from uptown, until authorities announced that the helicopter flight restriction area would extend 35 miles from Time Warner Cable Arena from 4 p.m. to midnight each day. A three-mile zone is off-limits during the day.

Dennis Milligan, news director of WBTV (Channel 3), says he plans to have a photographer available to board the station’s helicopter outside the perimeter in case there is news elsewhere. WBTV’s studios, off West Morehead Street, overlook uptown.

WCNC (Channel 36), located near Charlotte-Douglas International Airport off Billy Graham Parkway, will also station its chopper beyond the zone at an airport in the region where their lease operator has arrangements.

“We are lucky because U.S. Helicopters has a couple different places to put it,” says news director Corrie Harding.

As of late this week, stations have been told that the restrictions will be in effect Sept. 4-6. That means the stations can get aerial footage of the big protest march planned for Sunday, Sept. 2.

Szulczewski says she doesn’t expect the loss of the helicopter to present any obstacles. “These days, with iPhones, it’s not that difficult to turn pictures around. It’s a new time.”

Media Movers

WBT-AM (1110) “Charlotte’s Morning News” co-host Stacey Simms expects to return to the air Aug. 27 after healing from gastro-intestinal problems that landed her in the hospital for nearly two weeks. …

New lineup starts Monday at WZGV-AM (“ESPN” 730) with David Glenn’s syndicated show from Raleigh airing noon-3 p.m. and “The Sports Pulse” with Mike Pacheco, Bobby Rosinski and rotating hosts moving to afternoon drive time. Also on Saturday mornings through football season, the station is adding “College Football Preview Show” at 10 a.m. with Lanny Ford and former Indianapolis Colts tight end Charles Arbuckle. …

Joining Fox Charlotte as weekend producer is Amelia McGriff, a Lancaster, S.C., native most recently at the NBC affiliate in Atlanta.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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