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San Diego Spotlight: MEDIA / KEVIN BRASS

XETV Considers Newscasts With Fox's Encouragement

September 02, 1991|KEVIN BRASS

During a recent convention of television critics, the scribes looked up from their free food and press kits detailing the sociopolitical nuances of "Golden Girls" long enough to hear Fox Television head honcho Barry Diller speak about the future of news on his network.

In two years, Diller said, Fox "won't tolerate any affiliate that is not in the news business."

That was news to local Fox affiliate, XETV (Channel 6). Channel 6 doesn't have news, and, after the convention, Channel 6 General Manager Martin Colby again said his station had no plans to do a newscast.

However, since then, Channel 6 apparently has had a change of heart.

"I think eventually this station will have to seriously consider news," Colby said Friday.

It may appear that the station is simply relenting under pressure from Fox. But Colby said that he recently has become impressed with Fox's commitment to news, particularly the development of the Fox news service.

"Now I see the possibility of a strong news service being developed," Colby said, which "would make it easier for local affiliates" to efficiently produce a news program, Colby said.

Channel 6 made a rather lame attempt at a local newscast from 1980 to 1985, and the experience clearly soured Colby on the concept. It was an expensive proposition and poorly received--an unenviable combination.

But technology has improved, some equipment has gotten cheaper, and Colby believes it may be more economically feasible to do a newscast, especially if Fox can lend quality support. He is also becoming convinced that, as programming competition continues to increase, news will be essential for local stations to survive.

"As competition grows it's going to become important for stations to maximize the need for the local community to tune in to local stations," Colby said.

Recently, independent KUSI-TV (Channel 51), which does have a news program, moved to wrest the Fox affiliation from Channel 6. It petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to rule that Fox should be forced to drop Channel 6, since it's signal is based in Mexico.

There has been no movement on that request, and Colby, a past chairman of the Fox affiliates' board of governors, says he gives it absolutely no credence.

"I have no concern at all about the station maintaining its affiliation with Fox," Colby said. Fox executives have said over and over again that they have no desire to drop Channel 6.

While all this sounds like San Diego is close to having a fifth local television news operation, Colby is still far short of making a commitment to news. He would say only that the station is "reconsidering" a news program. But he did say that if a decision is made to go ahead, September, 1992, or September, 1993, are the probable target dates for starting such an operation.

In another of the weird personal moments that make KFMB-TV (Channel 8) the back yard barbecue of local news, 11 p.m. anchorman Mitch Duncan took a few moments last week to tell the audience about his recent trip to see his mother. Mom still sees Mitch as a big celebrity, even though humble Mitch told her he's "just a guy who does the news on TV." But Mom doesn't buy it, Duncan told his breathless viewers. "You should see my mother's face when she introduces me," he said, assuring the audience that he's still "big" in her hometown. . . . Stand-up comedian Mark Brazill, a veteran of the local club scene, has been hired as a writer for Dennis Miller's new syndicated talk show, which will debut in January. . . .

North County-based KKOS-FM (95.9) is set to switch formats again. Beginning Thursday, the new sound will be "mellow rock," somewhere between the hard rock of KIOZ-FM (102.1) and the classic rock of KSDO-FM (102.9), everything from the Beatles and Rolling Stones to Elton John and Steely Dan. "No wimpy stuff and no head-banging rock," program director Ron Lane said. . . .

KKLQ (Q106) promotions director Pete Cosenza has left to take the job of program director for WAEB in Allentown, Pa. . . .

Channel 6 and Channel 39 have agreed to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year necessary to have the A.C. Nielsen Co. install ratings meters in San Diego. In contrast to ratings "diaries," the meters automatically record what respondents are watching. The meters are considered more accurate, and traditionally stations that don't do well in the ratings diaries are willing to pay the bill for the service. The meter system is scheduled to start in November, 1992. . . .

The unemployment ax has fallen at KCBQ since Jim Seemiller took over as general manager. The promotions director, business director and two engineers are history. In addition, Bill Moffitt, one of the station's voices for 13 years, was given his walking papers. Industry observers expect the bloodletting to continue. . . .

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