Friday, January 29, 2010

Okay. Let's Try This Again

Yawn .2

The vitriol ginned up by my last post proved the unstated premise that perceptions matter. Truth doesn’t matter. Further, it once again proved that people, acting on their preconceived notions, will read or listen for only those issues that would undergird their own concepts. It is called selective perception. I think in the case of my previous post, it may be an instance of selective exposure too.

Yes, the “Yawner?” post was long, some 900 words. It may have exceeded some readers’ attention span, just as President Obama may have lost some listeners along the way during his lengthy State of the Union speech. Readers of my post and viewers of the President’s speech came away with only those concepts that would resonate with their own rationale.

Here is what the post was about: The tension between professional journalists/journalism and social media. That’s all.

It was not about anybody’s political positions—mine or Robert Hadlock’s. It may matter that Mr. Hadlock wrote his “status” on Facebook during the State of the Union address and during the vote count in Massachusetts, but contrary to my critics, I cannot read his or anybody’s mind. I was not making an assumption.

This is what’s important: On Facebook unless the content and intent is clear, it can be misconstrued. In fact, in the previous post I said that.
Journalists must walk a fine line. Former journalist and author James Moore made that point at the end of the post. At the same time Facebook can be an extremely useful tool for journalists, it can also be hurtful for journalists.

When I left day-to-day journalism five years ago, I felt as though my Constitutional freedoms had been restored. For the first time in decades I could put stickers on my bumper and political signs in my yard. Before then, only my closest friends knew my politics.

Yet, when I was in “the business” and now, my words are being twisted by people who don’t even know me, saying in comments to my blog, that I seek to be the “thought police”. They told me I should “Get a life.” I was castigated for making assumptions, when the “Anonymous” writers were themselves making assumptions. One brought up the unlikely possibility of reinstating “The Fairness Doctrine”, apparently unaware that I addressed that topic not too long ago.

Knowing that the subject matter could be sensitive, I edited the “Yawner?” post carefully. Further, for fairness I sought and got Mr. Hadlock’s comments on his posts. I appreciate his response.

Further, one more time I want to say that Robert Hadlock is a class act, pro, and a man of great integrity. It was a pleasure working with him for close to 20 years. I smiled when I saw Robert’s latest “Status”: “Ah-CHOO”. It could be an acknowledgement that any journalist and certainly an anchor lives under a microscope, but I can’t read his mind. Indeed, bless you.

So, I stand by every word written in the previous post. In the context of my comments above, I encourage my critics to re-read “Yawn?” with an open mind leaving politics aside.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Awkward ...

A Yawner?

“Yawn”, KXAN TV (NBC) anchor Robert Hadlock posted as this “Status” on Facebook at 8:23 p.m. Was it mere coincidence that his post was in the beginning few moments of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, carried on NBC and all the other major networks? Was his status “an editorial comment”, I asked, but he didn’t respond. Others online with us offered alternative programming such as the UT vs. Texas Tech basketball game or PBS, if Mr. Hadlock was bored with the President’s speech, a speech that was hardly boring.

Asked about his “status” post last night again today, Hadlock brushed it aside. “I was sleepy last night. It’s interesting how people interpret a simple comment posted on Facebook.” Misinterpretations can happen, particularly in things like email or in a running dialogue on Facebook.

Journalists are people. All people have personal political positions. Such is the same for journalists. At the same time, however, journalists are held to a higher standard, at least by their peers. Journalists should appear apolitical in print, on the air, and even in person. Novice reporters as well as politicians are taught early on that one should assume that everything is “on the record” and every microphone is hot. One cannot have a professional lapse. An anchor or reporter can also show slant with a voiced inflection, a raised eyebrow, or by adlibbing away from the newscast script. It happens. It behooves a journalist to be circumspect.

Now comes social media, and many journalists have Facebook pages to promote programming, tease the next news stories, or as Mr. Hadlock does most of the time, praise the Texas Longhorns. Co-anchor Leslie Rhode foreshadows stories from time to time. KVUE TV (ABC) Meteorologist Mark Murray often uses Facebook for a synopsis of future weather forecasts or events in the “Live Music Capital of the World”. Michelle Valles of KEYE TV (CBS) is very active on Facebook, especially since the start of her 4 O’Clock show with Jason Wheeler. Ms. Valles has nearly 3,800 “friends”.

Other main anchors eschew social media, possibly preferring to keep their thoughts to themselves. They may be private people who do not want to put themselves “out there”. That’s totally understandable.

Hadlock, however, has 607 Facebook friends. He has been a fixture in Austin and Central Texas TV since 1987 when the UT grad came back to Austin to be part of the team at KVUE TV. He moved to the anchor chair at KXAN TV in 1990. He’s covered a little bit of everything. Of course, elections and politics are always when a TV station shows its best efforts, particularly here in the state capital.

Presidential addresses always should be items of high interest to journalists, whatever their private political stripe. What will the President propose? How will the Congress react? Will somebody shout, “Liar!” Will the President lose it in front of God and everybody? Particularly in this strange year with so many issues on the national agenda, a State of the Union address should rank high in interest—jobs, two wars, bank bail-outs, the deficit, etc.


President Obama is fully capable of soaring oratory, and he used those talents at times in the State of the Union. In this address, however, he also took a different tact trying to overcome what he called a “deficit of trust” which has driven a wedge between the political parties and the people of the country. The President also called out the media for facilitating this sort of polarization. In the coming news cycles we’ll here the pundits’ and loyal opposition’s take on the speech.

One would expect Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, or Rachel Maddow to possibly take their shots from the left or the right. Olbermann has begun labeling portions of his program with a graphic saying “Comment”. That’s okay. Commentary has long been part of the media’s role in the political process. Long before those mentioned above, Eric Sevareid regularly delivered commentary during the CBS evening news. Even Walter Cronkite commented. Cronkite’s most controversial commentary was of course when he came out in opposition to continuing the war in Vietnam. Cronkite’s comments were not a “yawner” to the sitting President at the time.

While some things are constant, communications is changing constantly. Social media is at the hub of much of the change. One might wonder what Sevareid would have thought of Facebook. Would he have written a blog? I’m pretty sure that he would have had a massive following on Twitter.

One week ago, January 19, 2010 at 8:25 p.m. Robert Hadlock posted another “Status” on Facebook saying simply, “God Bless America”—hardly an over-the-top political statement. President Obama said the same sentence last night. January 19, 2010 was the day of the Massachusetts special election to select a successor to Senator Edward Kennedy. Democrat Martha Coakley lost to Republican Scott Brown ending the Democrats commanding 60 votes in the Senate. The outcome of the election was clear by 8:25 p.m. The online discussion had to do with the difficulty of passing health insurance reform without the Democrat’s so-called “super majority”.

Former television reporter and author James Moore read into Robert Hadlock’s blessing a political message. “Careful there, Mr. Anchor,” Moore wrote on Facebook. “The thing about FB is [that] it reveals the politics of someone in a public venue….which ain’t a big deal unless you do the news on the (sic) tee vee.”

“I’m bemused that some see ‘God Bless America’ as a political statement, but hey, it’s only Facebook!” Hadlock responded.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

I’ve known Robert since 1987, and we worked together close to 20 years. I’m one of the 137 FB “friends” that we have in common. If one is going to write about the news media with a critical eye, one cannot allow personal feelings to stand in the way of a story or while writing tempt one to shrink back from difficult analysis. JMc

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where Is Hugh Lewis?

On Line, Of Course!

Where is Hugh Lewis? The Horns lost their #1 NCAA basketball ranking while the whole world was watching. Where is Hugh Lewis? The Dallas Cowboys were dismissed from the NFC playoff by a 40-year-old, future Hall of Famer? Where is Hugh Lewis? Baseball season is just around the corner, and the Horns are already ranked #1. Where is Hugh Lewis?

For decades Hugh Lewis spoke sports in Austin Media. I worked with him in what I call the “Halcyon Days”, the 1980s, at KVUE TV (ABC). We were #1, and Hugh Lewis was the sports director. Hugh’s winning smile was a Hallmark of KVUE sports, and his sports acumen was matched by few.
Everyone knows that broadcasting jobs are seldom forever, so Lewis moved on in 1992.

Like most of us, he tried other things away from the cameras and microphones for a few years. The love of the game—all of the games—brought Hugh back, this time in radio. “I worked for KVET-AM, 1300-The Zone, and ESPN radio from 2002-2006,” Lewis says. Radio sports kept him quite busy. “Duties included talk show host, color commentator for U.T. women's basketball, Austin Terminators Indoor football, U.T. pregame and postgame football shows, U.T. baseball commentator, Westlake and other Austin area high school football broadcasts.”

If Lewis wasn’t busy enough, he had other interests on the side. In 2003 and 2004, Lewis was general manager and part owner of the Austin Rockers Indoor Professional Football Team.

Where is Hugh Lewis? In 2006 he moved to New York. (New York?!!) “Moved to New York in 2006 to work as Sports Director for HDNews TV. It was an HD version of CNN...but was shut down last year,” Lewis says.

So, where is Hugh Lewis now? Online, of course. Lewis and his son created an aggregate sports web site, Not all of the links were working (Hugh says his tech guy has been out of pocket), but the content is quite good, with the possible exception of the “Bonafide Hottie”. “The website idea evolved from watching games with my son and son-in-law, and our arguments over how sports used to be...and how sports are today,” Lewis says. utilizes my sports background, and my son's internet and computer background. It's a great way for us to bond together and have fun doing it!”

Where in the world is Hugh Lewis? He’s still in New Jersey probably playing with his grandchildren. (Grandchildren?!!!).

Time flies.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

KXAN Hopes New Programs Will Woo Views Back





Is KXAN TV (NBC) happy with losing Jay Leno at 9 p.m. five nights a week?

“No doubt,” says Eric Lassberg, president and general manager at KXAN. At the end of the Winter Olympics, NBC will have five new hours of programming at 9 p.m. and Leno returns to the Tonight Show in a full hour-long program, but will former KXAN TV news viewers return?

“I am highly confident that the new line-up will increase our lead-in and result in more viewership at 10 p.m., particularly post Olympics,” Lassberg says. “It is our job now to prove the benefits of watching our newscasts day in and day out so we retain the sampling from the Olympics and stronger lead in.”

With Leno in the 9 p.m. slot five nights a week, KXAN had slipped back in the back, and KEYE TV (CBS) had taken over the #2 position at 10 p.m. during the November sweeps in what came to be called “The Leno Effect”. NBC stations across the nation watched their late news ratings drop by a third after Jay Leno took over the hour leading up to the news.

Now, NBC is announcing new programming in hopes of attracting the audience that Jay Leno lost. The new schedule starts March 1.

The new drama series “Parenthood” will premiere on Tuesday, March 2 (9-10 p.m.) and the comedy panel series “The Marriage Ref” from Jerry Seinfeld will premiere Thursday, March 4 (9-10 p.m.) after its sneak preview on Sunday, February 28 (9:30-10 p.m.) following NBC’s coverage of the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Olympics,” an NBC news release says.

Not mentioned is what happens to Conan O’Brien? The assumption is that O’Brien is going away. Who would Lassberg rather have in the “Tonight” time slot? Conan O’Brien was supposed to capture the younger demographic, but Leno is a proven winner. “Not sure who I would rather have, but Leno beat Letterman, and Conan did not,” Lassberg says. “Conan had a weaker lead-in because of Leno 9-10 p.m. leading to a lower rated 10 p.m. news, so who really knows… One strong point in favor of Leno at 1035p is he has a long track history of performance.”

Another question is whether Leno can wrest away his former, and aging audience who fled to Letterman rather than watching O’Brien.

Here’s the full lineup. (All programs are new productions, unless otherwise noted):

Monday, March 1st
7-8 p.m. CHUCK (through May 24th)
8-10 p.m. LAW & ORDER (2-hour debut on a new night in its 20th season)

Monday, March 8th
8-9 p.m. TRAUMA (through May 24th)
9-10 LAW & ORDER (through May 24th)

Tuesday, March 2nd
7-9 p.m. THE BIGGEST LOSER (through May 25th)
9-10 p.m. PARENTHOOD (through May 25th)

Wednesday, March 3rd
7-8 p.m. MERCY (through May 19th)
8-9 p.m. LAW & ORDER: SVU (Repeat) (through May 12th)
9-10 p.m. LAW & ORDER: SVU (through May 26th)

THURSDAY (Comedy Night)
Thursday, March 4th
7-7:30 p.m. COMMUNITY (through May 20th)
7:30-8 p.m. PARKS & RECREATION (through May 20th)
8-8:30 p.m. THE OFFICE (through May 20th)
8:30-9 p.m. 30 ROCK (through May 20th)
9-10 p.m. THE MARRIAGE REF (through May 20th)

Friday, March 5th
7-8 p.m. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? (through April 23rd) – A new game show.
8-10 p.m. DATELINE (through May 21st)

Friday, April 30th
7-8 p.m. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (through May 28th)

Saturday, March 6th
7-8 p.m. THE BIGGEST LOSER (Repeat) (through May 22nd)
8-9 p.m. LAW & ORDER (Repeat) (through May 22nd)
9-10 p.m. LAW & ORDER: SVU (Repeat) (through May 29th)

Sunday, March 14th
6-7 p.m. DATELINE (through May 2nd)
7-8 p.m. MINUTE TO WIN IT (through May 2nd)
8-10 p.m. CELEBRITY APPRENTICE (through May 23rd)

Sunday, May 9th and May 23rd
6-8 p.m. DATELINE

What follows is NBC’s take on the new programs:

“Parenthood” is a one-hour drama inspired by the box-office comedy hit of the same name that debuts Tuesday, March 2 (10-11 p.m. ET). The re-imagined and updated production introduces audiences to the large and colorful yet imperfect Braverman family and features an all-star cast that includes Lauren Graham, Peter Krause, Craig T. Nelson, Erika Christensen, and Bonnie Bedelia among others. Serving as executive producers are Oscar winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Frost/Nixon”), Jason Katims ("Friday Night Lights") – who wrote the pilot episode -- and David Nevins (“Friday Night Lights,” “Arrested Development”). Emmy Award winner Thomas Schlamme ("The West Wing") is the director and executive producer of the pilot. "Parenthood" is from Imagine Television and Universal Media Studios.

"The Marriage Ref" – which has a special sneak preview following the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Olympics on February 28 -- is NBC's new comedy panel series about the unpredictable and hilarious institution commonly known as marriage. It features comedian/actor Tom Papa, who was personally selected by executive producer Jerry Seinfeld to host and serve as the "marriage ref." The show will premiere in its regular slot on Thursdays (10-11 p.m. ET) beginning March 4.

"The Marriage Ref" is produced by Seinfeld's Columbus 81 Productions and Ellen Rakieten Entertainment. Seinfeld, Ellen Rakieten ("The Oprah Winfrey Show"), Shed Media's Nick Emmerson ("Supernanny") and Jennifer O'Connell ("Supernanny"), Al Berman ("The Biggest Loser Live Finale,"
"The Celebrity Apprentice Live Finale"), Howard West ("Seinfeld") and George Shapiro ("Seinfeld") serve as executive producers. International distribution is by Endemol.

“Who Do You Think You Are?” premieres Friday, March 5 (8-9 p.m. ET) and gives viewers an up-close and personal look inside the family history of some of today’s most beloved and iconic celebrities. Among the celebrities featured are Matthew Broderick, Lisa Kudrow, Spike Lee, Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields and Emmitt Smith. is NBC’s official partner on the series. From executive producer Kudrow (“Friends,” “The Comeback”) -- in conjunction with her production company Is or Isn’t Entertainment and the U.K.’s Wall to Wall productions -- “Who Do You Think You Are?” is an adaptation of the hit BBC television documentary series created and executive-produced by Alex Graham.

“Who Do You Think You Are?” is produced by Wall to Wall productions (a Shed Media Company) in association with Is or Isn’t Entertainment.
Alex Graham and Lucy Carter from Wall to Wall and Lisa Kudrow, Dan Bucatinsky and Don Roos from Is or Isn’t Entertainment are the executive producers. Bryn Freedman is the co-executive producer.

All-American chef and television personality Guy Fieri ("Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives") will host NBC’s new game show “Minute to Win It” as it debuts on Sunday, March 14 (8-9 p.m. ET). Fieri will serve as master of ceremonies and will lead competitors through a series of simple, yet nerve-wracking games that can reward them a $1 million prize. Over eight one-hour episodes, competitors will face 10 challenges that escalate in level of difficulty using everyday household items. Each game has a 60-second time limit and failure to finish the task on time will eliminate the contestant. At various points throughout the game, the contestant can walk away with the money earned up to that point -- but it'll take nerves of steel to complete all 10 tasks to win $1 million.

“Minute to Win It” is produced by Universal Media Studios with Friday Television. Craig Plestis, Tim Puntillo (NBC's “Identity”), Mattias Olsson and Jock Millgardh serve as executive producers.

There you have it. The new NBC night time programming. Will it be a step forward?

© Jim McNabb

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Truth Be Told

Politicians Lie

Politicians lie. Shocking! In the year of the “You Lie” interruption of President Obama’s State of the Union address, it’s time to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, and truth-tellers from the liars.

“In the past, we simply passed along the falsehoods and assumed citizens would sort out,” Bill Adair, national PolitiFact editor and Washington bureau chief for the St. Petersburg Times tells the Austin American-Statesman. Adair says voters nowadays in our complex world don’t have the time or means to parse out the truth. Adair and his newspaper won the Pulitzer last spring for “separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters” during the presidential election.

Now, Texas politicians will be under the same sort of microscope spearheaded by the Austin American-Statesman.

The “Truth-O-Meter” analyzed statements by Governor Rick Perry and Texas senior Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in a page-one article in the Austin American-Statesman January 13. The above-the-fold story consuming close to 100 column-inches, including the “jump page” announces an alliance with Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checkers PolitiFact started by the St. Petersburg Times ( in 2007.

“Holding candidates and public officials accountable for their pronouncements is one of the most serious obligations a news organization assumes in return for the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment,” said Statesman Editor Fred Zipp.

PolitiFact Texas ( is led by veteran Statesman political writer W. Gardner Selby. Reporters will focus on the 2010 elections. The race for Governor at the top of the ticket will grab most of the attention. The candidates’ “fact-based statements, not their opinions, will be put to the Truth-O-Meter’s tests. After digging down to the bottom, and deciding the facts, the statements will be assigned one of six labels:

True: The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

Mostly True: The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

Half True: The statement is accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

Barely True: The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

False: The statement is not accurate.

Pants on Fire: The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim. [Essentially, a lie.]

The PoltitiFact Texas findings will be published in the paper and online. The online page includes one “Pants On Fire” rating. (I love the flaming graphic.) Another useful feature is that the data base is searchable.

Under the leadership of then news director Carole Kneeland, KVUE TV (ABC) introduced “Truth Tests” in 1990 to pick apart political ads and analyze candidate’s claims with much the same goal. Other local stations have also done these types of stories. While these TV stories usually pop up during the political season, there has not been an ongoing, organized effort such as PolitiFact Texas.

PolitiFact editor Adair wants to hold all those who would seek election accountable, including those running in local races. Zipp says, yes, local races are part of the American-Statesman’s plan too. “We will focus on statewide campaigns and issues until after the March primaries (and April runoffs, if any occur). Then, we will reassess priorities.”

News media are constantly hammered for one thing or another, usually by those claiming bias. In this case it’s appropriate to make note when media does something right. They will, no doubt, be hammered for it though.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

As Predicted

Palin on Fox and Leno Loses

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I make predictions.

Resolutions are those things that you wish would happen, i.e. “I shall lose weight.” “I shall exercise more.” “I resolve to ...” You know what I mean. Predictions are those things that you may be pretty sure about: “I won’t lose significant weight.” “I’ll gain back the weight I lost.” “Democracy will survive in the United States.”

Over the past year I made several media predictions, and now they are either becoming reality are they are being talked about at the very least. The latest prediction came true today.

“Sarah Palin signs on with Fox News.”—Washington Post. It took a few months longer than I thought, but it’s coming to a cable TV near you. Surprised? Hey, she can read a teleprompter. She has a degree in journalism. She cannot ad lib, however. (See “O Biden” on “60 Minutes” January 10, 2010) or with Katie Couric. So, this announcement leads to another prediction: Sarah Palin will utter some grievous gaffe in the next year. We’ll see.

At first I said, nah, this announcement isn’t worth a post. Then, I thought about a few other newsmcnabb predictions and recent developments.

NBC cancels “Jay Leno Show”. In the concluding paragraphs in last winter’s post about “The Leno Effect” I opined that Leno wouldn’t be around very long. Why? He was killing the news ratings for local newscasts following the broadcast.

Leno’s lousy numbers resulted in a slide locally for KXAN TV (NBC) during the November sweeps. The Winter Olympics cannot start soon enough to bring the viewers back. What will be interesting, however, is will the viewers come back.

Local news users/consumers/viewers have been sampling other 10 O’clock broadcasts for months now, documented by KEYE TV (CBS) rise to #2 in the Austin market. KVUE TV (ABC) remains #1. Will the Winter Olympics mean the return of better ratings for KXAN? Or, will these viewers have found a new home for their late news consumption.

Further, what will NBC do with the 9 O’clock (Central) hour? Will it gain immediate traction, attracting viewings and providing a powerful lead-in audience for the late local news? It could be as bad as “The Leno Effect”. Both network and local broadcasters are twitching.

One other prediction that attracted little attention when written is that free network TV will disappear to cable in the future. Local broadcasts chided me saying, “No, it will never happen.” Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider while trying to purchase a controlling share of NBC Universal also protests that they are committee to the traditional broadcast model. They would never take NBC to cable. Remember, a big business deal is in the works and people are prone to saying whatever will help, rather than hinder their efforts. I’m just sayin’ …

© Jim McNabb, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tell Me How Cold It Will Be


Raw-bone cold weather with a rip-your-face-off wind chill is forecast for the latter part of this week (around Thursday, January 7, 2010). A howling, wind-driven blast of polar air may make you think you’ve moved to Montana.

This is Texas. This isn’t supposed to happen. These days are proof that weather is a driver for local newscasts. Austin is fortunate with its cadre of highly qualified weather communicators, but not everyone will wait for the weather in the regularly scheduled newscasts. Viewers/users/consumers want their weather information now! It’s freezing! Will my greenhouse hold the heat? Should I bring my horse inside? Are we all going to die???

Fortunately, there is now another immediate way of finding information for Austin and Central Texas. Quietly, December 17th, KVUE TV (ABC) re-launched weather 24/7. On KVUE .3 Digital find continuous weather graphics with National Weather Service audio. Weather had been on KVUE .2 commercial-free for four years before being changed to Spanish-language programming from “Estrella” last fall.

Many viewers still wished for weather. “We did receive hundreds of calls asking for the return of the channel,” say Patti Smith, KVUE president and general manager. “In the spirit of offering the most comprehensive weather information to the market, it was always our goal to return it to our third digital channel when possible.” KVUE .3 launched after getting the go-ahead from parent company Belo at the end of 2009 to order and install new equipment.

“We will be making significant enhancements to the offering shortly, adding a more robust weather presence and traffic information as well,” Smith says. Traffic and other information will be part of an “L”-shaped graphic with the weather slightly squeezed into a corner of the screen. Included in the “L” will be the current temperatures and conditions in surrounding areas. “Additionally, we’ll be adding traffic information to the site, which we did not have previously. This information will come in the form of animated maps detailing current traffic around the city, and we’re hoping to incorporate TXDot cameras as well.”

“At this point, we’re still working through the technical challenges to pull this all together,” Smith says. Eventually, the channel will also include commercial breaks, providing a new revenue stream.

News 8 (Time Warner Cable), of course, has also provided local weather information 24/7 in several ways. Since its inception, there has always been “Weather on the 8s”. Further, on Time-Warner Cable digital channels 355 and 358, it’s all weather, all the time. Cable channel 359 is all weather in Spanish.

Finally, of course, weather is at your fingertips. Earlier, I mentioned the resources of all of the local television stations. KVUE seems to have the most available graphics. KXAN TV (NBC) also has good information in Jim Spencer’s weather blog. Of course, the weather law and the prophets are kept at the National Weather Service. The NWS site has radar and satellite photos, plus detailed descriptions and data. Find it at

In my mind one of the best sources of useable, local weather can be found at Punch in your zip code, and you’ll find all kinds of stuff. Scroll down to see up-to-the-second data from weather stations dotting all of the Austin area coming from weather geeks with weather stations tied to their home computers. You can watch temperatures drop and wind directions change as the arctic cold front blows through Thursday. Better yet, punch up and your favorite weather channel on TV.

Bottom line: They’ll all say, it may be 20 degrees, and we’re not all going to die.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010

TW Vs Fox

TW and Fox: Done Deal

In what may be a precedent-setting deal, Fox and Time Warner Cable are agreeing in principle to a new retransmission agreement meaning that millions of viewers here in Central Texas and elsewhere will still find football and the Simpsons on their cable line up.

Negotiators talked into the night as a midnight 12-31-09 deadline loomed. The Federal Communications Commission asked for and got an extension so viewers could get their bowl games during the holiday. Both sides continued talking into the new year. The “agreement in principle” was announced Friday night (1-1-2010).

Fox had been asking TW to pay $1 for each of their viewers, a price TW rejected. There is no word on what compensation may be included in the new deal. Fox had said it can no longer give away its stations' signals because the network is facing stiff competition from cable channels, such as the ESPN. ESPN is owned by the Walt Disney Company, earns subscriber fees on top of advertising dollars. According to the Huffington Post, CBS is getting 50-cents per subscriber. Reportedly, Time Warner had been offering around 30-cents.

“We’re happy to have reached a reasonable deal with no disruption in programming for our customers,” said Glenn Britt, Chairman, President and CEO, Time Warner Cable in a statement posted on the KTBC TV (Fox 7) web site. KTBC is owned and operated (O&O) by Fox.

"We're pleased that, after months of negotiations, we were able to reach a fair agreement with Time Warner Cable -- one that recognizes the value of our programming,” said Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and COO, News Corporation. Fox is owned by News Corp.

The deal affects some 14-million households across the nation. It was not all about Fox stations like KTBC, but also sports programming on regional sports cable channels like Fox Southwest.

Dual revenue streams ESPN has been able to outbid Fox for big sporting events such as the college football Bowl Championship Series — including the Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl that are now on Fox — from 2011 to 2013, according to the Associated Press.

I just switched over to the Sugar Bowl pitting unbeaten Cincinnati against Florida on Fox. The game is about to begin, but I doubt the Time Warner soap opera is over.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

Happy Fox/Time Warner New Year



If You Can

As the clock ticked past midnight, Fox network continued on Time Warner cable into 2010. Whoopee!!! Happy New Year!!! Whatever …

Folks, it shouldn’t be this way. If there were real competition among programming providers, there shouldn’t be drama.

For me, there was no drama. I watched as midnight, January 1, 2010 came and went. I was ready to switch to digital TV IF I wanted to watch something on Fox. I should note that I have contacted Fox in New York City several times and the designated representative has not called me back regarding the status of the Fox owned and operated station in Austin, KTBC TV although they promised. Further if they were to issue some sort of a news release, they promised that I would be included. There may not have been a news release. The clock just ticked.

So, since the FCC said it would be a bad thing to pull the plug over the holiday weekend, I guess Fox caved……………for now. It’s only “for now”, however. Please plow back to my earlier posts about the impending end of free TV and networks taking their programming to cable.

It’s going to happen.

Yes, there may be a continuing news presence on local stations, but programming may be migrating to the evil cable sooner than you think.

So, with which devil do you do business? Do you do business with the devil you know, Time Warner, the “provider” that is continually at war with networks for retransmission payments? Or, do you decide to try something new? Consumer Reports recently ranked AT&T’s U-verse high nationally while local customers have misgivings. It all depends on how close you are to their originating point. The farther the signal must travel on these copper lines, the less quality or even connectivity you may have from U-verse. Ask a lot of questions.

Quite honestly, satellite—any satellite—is probably the best alternative right now, given the fact that Grande is nowhere close to being a player in Austin. For a “bundle” (Several services such as TV, Internet, and telephone), AT&T could be a good, economical choice if it’s available.

Time Warner (I’m a customer) is good as a telephone and excellent as an Internet provider. They started out as a TV cable company. They suck as a TV cable company. I’m not saying that Fox is right in this squabble. I’m not taking sides. I’m commenting on TW’s diminishing history of delivering affordable television programming to Central Texas residents.

Time Warner wants you to think that they are the “good guys”. There are no good guys in this business.

© Jim McNabb, 2010