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WTVI switches PBS airtimes to offer more choices

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Charlotte’s WTVI (Channel 42) will shake up its weekday prime-time schedule later this month to put it on a different pattern than competing PBS stations in the region.

Since 2012, WTVI has carried the mainstream, first-run PBS schedule with signature programs like “Frontline” and “Masterpiece,” duplicating the programming on two other public TV networks carried in Charlotte, UNC-TV from Research Triangle Park and SC ETV from Columbia.

While this brought the independent public TV station the best-known PBS shows, including the popular “Downton Abbey” and “NOVA,” it meant all three channels were showing the same material in lockstep.

Beginning June 17, WTVI will carry top PBS shows on a different night than the two statewide networks.

WTVI will air local programs, including “Carolina Impact” and “Trail of History” on Tuesday nights, which used to run on Thursday nights.

Regular Tuesday night PBS programming, like “American Experience” and PBS specials, will air Wednesday nights on WTVI, a day after they appear on UNC-TV and SC ETV.

On Thursday nights, WTVI will carry the PBS science night programs like “Nature” and “Nova,” a night after they air on the two statewide networks.

On Friday and Saturday nights, WTVI’s schedule – which is composed of shows that differ from those of the statewide networks – will remain unchanged.

Amy Burkett, WTVI’s general manager, says the station had to get a “common carriage waiver” from PBS to move the programming to different nights. She says she believes it is one of the broadest waivers PBS has granted to a major affiliate.

“This will help us define ourselves,” Burkett says. “Five nights a week we will have differentiated programming.”

To save money, WTVI is outsourcing its master control operation. Burkett says that will save about $2 million in replacement costs for aging equipment. Master control, the technical center from which programs are broadcast, will move to the PBS affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., which will operate WTVI’s digital channels remotely.

Six full-time positions have been eliminated at WTVI with the change, Burkett says.

Media Movers

Joining WJZY (Channel 46) as a junior digital journalist is M’Ballu Tejan-Sie who recently got her master’s degree from the University of Southern California. … Charlotte native and former WCCB (Channel 18) morning host Anna Kooiman is promoted to co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend.” She previously was a correspondent for the Fox News Channel. …

Jeff Rivenbark, a former producer at WBTV (Channel 3), has been named executive producer for WTVI (Channel 42) effective June 16. As part of his duties, Rivenbark will become permanent host for the station’s “Off the Record” Friday night news roundtable, replacing David Rhew, who left the station in April. …

Southeast regional Emmy Awards, which includes South Carolina stations, will be announced Saturday in Atlanta. Nominated for programming excellence is the Rock Hill CN2 6 p.m. newscast with Laurabree Monday, Lucas McFadden, Chris Roberts, Alison Rauch, Mia Macy and Trey Maggio. Anniversary of note: WBTV’s sports director Delano Little marks 25 years at Channel 3. …

Marc James, who left WFNZ-AM (“Fan” 610), starts at CBS Radio’s sports-talk sister station in Atlanta in afternoon drive time. … Nathan Richie, well-known for his fill-in work at WEND-FM (“End” 106.5), will be heard on Clear Channel sister station WLKO-FM (“Lake” 102.9). … Among those speaking at a Monday seminar on achieving success as a sportscaster at the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association & Hall of Fame in Salisbury are Marv Albert, Bob Costas, Peter King and former WCCB news director Ken White. …

John Isley and Billy James, better known as John Boy and Billy on WRFX-FM (“Fox” 99.7), sign a long-term contract extension with Clear Channel’s Premiere Networks, which syndicates their morning show to more than 70 stations. … Jobie Sprinkle, WFAE-FM’s (NPR 90.7) director of engineering, was elected as the president of the Association of Public Radio Engineers.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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