Thursday, September 30, 2010

She Will Be Missed

KVUE TV’s Thea Williams 1965-2010

KVUE TV’s home page has a small post and video today saying a somber farewell to a longtime friend who will be remembered by many in Central Texans:

“KVUE is saying goodbye to a dear friend and colleague.

“Our Daybreak and Midday executive producer Thea Williams passed away Wednesday night after a lengthy illness.

“Thea was a talented journalist and was widely respected for her high standards and great compassion. She was a leader in the newsroom, a mentor to young journalists, and most of all, a dear friend.

It is never easy to say goodbye. Thea lived every day with true grace and kindness.
“Our prayers are with her family and her two children.

“Her impact on all of us will not be forgotten.”

Patti Smith, KVUE president and general manager, informed the staff this morning.

“For those of you who were lucky enough to have worked with Thea, you know that she lit up the room with her presence. She was the guiding force behind KVUE’s Daybreak and Midday for many years and her contributions to this station will never be forgotten,” Smith said. “Above and beyond that, Thea was a wonderful friend to many, both inside and outside this building.

There were many times I’d be in the public representing the station at an event and I’d be approached by someone that had contact with Thea and our newsroom. They were always complimentary about Thea and would usually say, ‘Oh, I love Thea!’ We all did. Her laughter and friendship will not be forgotten; her impact on us all will not be forgotten.”

Williams joined KVUE 15 years ago as a producer. She was a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. She also had her master’s degree in journalism, and she taught classes at Austin Community College. Prior to KVUE, she worked at WJXT TV in Jacksonville, Florida.

“She was the only person to call me “Franco,” and get away with it,” says Frank Volpicella, KVUE news director. “She always had a smile. She always was positive. Always a bundle of energy. I don’t believe she ever uttered anything negative about anyone.”

Here’s a little-known fact: “She hated squirrels. She was very afraid of them. Sometimes she would walk through our courtyard, and have to run back inside out of breath, because she saw a squirrel,” Volpicella says.

She was also a pack rat like many journalists. Her desk was always jammed with stuff. Journalists claim they never know when they might need something in there.

Williams had been battling breast cancer. “She courageously battled against her illness. She was very spiritual and religious. I know her faith helped her considerably during her illness. It is a difficult day at KVUE news. Everyone is deeply saddened,” Volpicella said.

Thea Williams was 45.

(c) Jim McNabb, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Time Warner Cable Austin’s “Customer Service”

Whose Pixel Problem Is It?

Does Time Warner Cable-Austin (TWC) not have a competent engineer on the clock during prime time? If viewers wanted to watch MSNBC Friday, September 17, 2010 they could not help but be annoyed. I was annoyed.

I started trying to watch during “Hardball with Chris Matthews” around 6:20 p.m. Central. I finally gave up and switched to baseball shortly before 9 p.m. during “Rachel Maddow”. OK, so I revealed my viewing choices. This isn’t about MSNBC. It’s about what TWC calls customer service.

Tuning in MSNBC, “Standard Service” on Channel 49, it was periodically pixelling (Is that a word?). The pixels are little boxes and garbled sound when a channel isn’t tuned in. If you use your digital TV converter to pick up live television, you’ve seen this phenomenon before. When you’re tuning with “rabbit ears”, it’s one thing. When you’re watching cable TV, a service you’re paying for, it’s another issue.

Pixels can happen when a satellite transponder isn’t tuned. Rarely the problem is at the source. Most of the time, the problem is where the signal is received, in this case, Time Warner Cable.

Having worked in TV, I assumed (Never assume.) that some engineer was working on the problem. After an hour, I began to wonder. So, I called.

A nice guy—we’ll call him Bryan—said he’d check. Early on, Bryan said that he’d gotten other calls about Standard Cable Channel #49. Hmmmm. Then, Bryan came back on to say that he would reset my cable box. NO! This is the Standard Cable tier. There is no box. Others have complained. The problem clearly is not on the consumer’s end. The problem is either with TWC or MSNBC. Bryan seemed to understand. He put me on hold again.

He came back with this suggestion: He’d give me a telephone number, and I could call the network. NO! No, Bryan. “It’s TWC’s job to call the network, not mine. I’m buying the service, and you’re the provider of the service,” I said. He put me on hold again.

When he came back, I asked if TWC had an engineer on duty. An engineer should check the satellite transponder and tweak it until it is tuned, or the engineer should call their provider. He put me on hold again.

When he returned he claimed that they were working on it, and if it wasn’t resolved by tomorrow, I should call back. “No,” I said, feeling like a member of Congress having said “No” so much. I asked again whether they had an engineer on duty who could check on the problem because it could be a quick fix.

I didn’t want to hammer the poor guy whose job it is to answer the phone, but apparently is provided with little information and little understanding of how cable TV works.

He put me on hold again. I said that it was OK.

When “Bryan” came back, he claimed that their technicians were working the problem locally, and if TWC determined that it wasn’t their issue, they’d call the network. I thanked him for his efforts and time. When I gave up, the problem had not been resolved at the Standard Service level.

So, I ask again: Does TWC have a competent engineer on duty during prime time? Now, I’ll add the question, is this TWC’s definition of customer service?

TWC needs competition.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mickey Mouse and TWC are Friends Again

Who won? Who lost?

Time Warner Cable says it is its customers who won.

Customers/users/viewers of TWC found this email this morning:

"To Our Valued Customers...

"Time Warner Cable is always negotiating new deals with TV networks. Recently, we reached a new long-term agreement with Disney/ABC and ESPN, so you can continue to watch your favorite channels and the shows you love for years to come.

"There will be no interruption of ESPN or Disney channels, as well as WABC in New York, KABC in Los Angeles, WTVD in Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville and WTVG in Toledo. They'll stay right here on Time Warner Cable. In fact, our agreement means more networks and services for you, including the following*:

"Disney Junior - a new 24-hour basic channel for preschool-age children, parents and caregivers launching in 2012.

" - ESPN's live sports broadband network will be available to all Time Warner Cable subscribers who get ESPN.

"A New ESPN Service - customers will be able to view ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU through broadband and mobile Internet devices.

"ESPN Goal Line - a college football super-highlight channel will be available only to Time Warner Cable’s Sports Pass customers starting as early as September 4, 2010.

"ESPN Buzzer Beater - a college basketball service similar to ESPN Goal Line, will be available to Time Warner Cable’s Sports Pass customers for college basketball season.

"Expanded Video On Demand Services - including ABC On Demand, Disney-branded On Demand offerings for kids, local sports content in select markets, plus the subscription Video On Demand service "Disney Family Movies."

"Start Over and Look Back - featured on a variety of Disney Media Networks content.

"ESPN Deportes - will be available to a larger Time Warner Cable footprint.


And so ends the latest TWC drama. There will be more, to be sure.

It will be interesting to see the roll-out of these newly announced features and what they will cost. I'm thinking that they will not be free.

(c) Jim McNabb, 2010