WUCF TV, PBS in Central Florida

It’s official: WUCF TV to be Orlando’s main PBS station

WUCF TV, PBS in Central FloridaPBS fans in Orlando can breathe easier. On July 1, WUCF TV will officially take over as the main PBS affiliate in Central Florida when public broadcasting leaves longtime home WMFE-TV.

Though reported earlier, the deal was officially announced today. The University of Central Florida said in a news release that WUCF TV will become the main channel on WBCC-Channel 68.1 and begin airing PBS programming the day WMFE adopts its new religious programming format.

“In April, when WMFE-TV announced its affiliation with PBS would end as of June 30, we at UCF knew that Central Florida stood to lose a treasured community resource,” UCF President John Hitt said. “However, as America’s leading partnership university, we also know that great turnarounds can happen for the common good through the power of partnerships. I look forward to July 1 and enjoying some of my favorite shows on the new WUCF TV.”

WBCC-TV, named after Brevard Community College, has been programming Channel 68 since October 1991 and started carring PBS shows as a secondary affiliate in 2002. (Side note: The college station was originally WRES-Channel 18, when it went on the air in 1988. But in 1991  it executed a deal with then-independent — now CW affiliate — WKCF to swap channel positions. But I digress …) UCF has been airing its community programming, dubbed UCF TV, on WBCC’s digital subchannel 68.2. Part of the new arrangement will have WUCF’s main PBS programming on 68.1, with WBCC’s programming and UCF TV sliding to subchannels  68.2 and 68.3.

Still not totally clear to me:  will WUCF be the official call letters of record for Channel 68, or does it retain WBCC?

Click here to read the full press release, and click here to see the new website for WUCF TV (you can also make a donation to the new PBS station there, too.)

Click here for Orlando Sentinel coverage.




Against WMFE sale? You have until Friday to tell FCC

The Federal Communications Commission has set Friday as the deadline for those opposed to the sale of public broadcaster WMFE to make their case.

According to RBRTV.com, ‘”The deadline to file a petition to deny is 5/6/11, and all related filings should reference MB Docket No. 11-75 and File No. BALEDT-20110401ACW.”

As you likely know, Orlando’s money-troubled PBS affiliate announced last month that it had entered into a deal to be acquired by Texas religious broadcaster Daystar TV for about $3 million. Unless there is some reason for the FCC to block the sale, WMFE is expected to flip off its PBS programming and become the area’s fourth religious broadcaster after WTGL-Ch. 45, WHLV-Ch. 52 and WACX-Ch. 55.

However, as RBBTV.com  noted, “We’re not exactly sure what would constitute an actionable objection to the sale of this station. Daystar has the portfolio to prove that it is a qualified licensee. Some may bemoan the loss of PBS programming; others may welcome the advent of Daystar programming. The FCC does not delve into programming matters and can offer no help on that count to either side. We suspect this deal with go through according to the agreement between the two parties.”

WESH live truck in accident under Interstate 4

Firefighters attempt to stabilize the WESH 2 live truck before removing reporter Greg Fox and his photographer (Courtesy WKMG)

WKMG’s new 7 p.m. newscast had its first scoop Wednesday night — video of an accident involving a WESH 2 News live van stuck under Interstate 4.

According to Local 6, the Channel 2 van nearly rolled over when the live mast became stuck under the I-4 overpass on Wymore Road, near WESH’s headquarters.

In video shown on WKMG, firefighters attempted to stabilize the vehicle before safely removing WESH reporter Greg Fox and a photographer, identified as “Frank.” Neither was injured.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, “The driver said he had been on Interstate 4 and passed under another overpass successfully and did not know how the mast got into the ‘up’ position.”

Seattle sports guy Gaard Swanson is new WKMG anchor

Gaard Swanson (courtesy KIRO.com)

It worked with departing morning anchor Erick Weber — hiring a sports anchor to make the transition to news anchor. So, Local 6 is going to do it again.

NewsBlues.com and OrlandoSentinel.com report that WKMG is  hiring Gaard Swanson as its new main male anchor. Starting Feb. 3, he will co-anchor the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts with Lauren Rowe.

Swanson is the former sports director at Seattle’s Cox-owned CBS affiliate, KIRO-7. Before joining KIRO in July 2002, he was with Fox Sports Northwest, Fox Sports in LA and Seattle NBC powerhouse KING-5. NewsBlues describes Swanson as “a talented and likable personality” who has been on the beach for more than a year. Since leaving KIRO, he’s been doing freelance work and hosting a series on HGTV. His wife is a freelance weathercaster at Tribune’s KCPQ-Fox 13 in Seattle.

“I think he’s exactly what we were looking for,” WKMG GM Skip Valet told the Sentinel. “He’s a warm and personable guy, an engaging communicator, a family guy, very likable, very smart.”

At WKMG, Swanson will replace Mike Garofalo, who left the Local 6 anchor desk in September to move to Miami to be with his wife. Erick Von Ancken, who has been filling in on the Local 6 anchor desk with Rowe since Garofalo’s departure and was vying for the main anchor gig, will return to his weekend anchor duties.

If Swanson needs any inside info about Orlando, he can turn to a former KIRO colleague, Chris Egertthe former anchor at WFTV and WRDQ moved to the Seattle station in 2007.

Erick Weber leaving Local 6, heading to Boston

WKMG Morning News and noon anchor Erick Weber announced on his Facebook page Monday that he’s leaving Orlando.

“It is with both great excitement and great sadness that I am announcing I have accepted a morning news position in Boston, ” he wrote. “Central Florida has been home to me and my family for the past four years and while I am thrilled with the new opportunity, I will sincerely miss all of you who have made the choice to watch Local 6 during my time in Orlando.”

Weber told the Orlando Sentinel that he’s joining the New England Cable News network as morning news anchor. Coincidently, on Monday NECN launched a revamped version of its morning show — making it more like NBC’s Today or ABC’s Good Morning America. Weber is getting the news reader role on the show.

It was thanks to his time in Orlando that Weber got this break in Boston. Before becoming Local 6’s morning news anchor in 2007, he previously was a sports anchor in Milwaukee. “This was my first news job,” Weber told the Sentinel. “They took a chance on me. They offered me the opportunity to be a morning news guy and craft my skills.”

His last day at Local 6 will be March 2.

One of the things he’ll be remembered for is this well-done parody of the movie Cloverfield. Only this time, there really will be a going-away party for Weber.

Changes afoot at Bright House’s News 13

Wow — I need to go buy a lottery ticket.

Just a day after I made my 2011 predictions for the Orlando TV market — looks like one has come true — and another may be about to.

I received this communication Tuesday afternoon: “CFN13 just laid off news director Sean McNamara.  The general manager, Robin Smythe, announced the news in an e-mail sent [around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday], but did not give a reason.”

NewsBlues.com, meanwhile, reports “Elliott Wiser, the Bright House VP who oversees CFN13 and sister-station Bay News 9 in Tampa (Market #14), has scheduled an attendance-mandatory all-hands-on-deck staff meeting in both newsrooms today. Rumors of news-sharing swirl. The two news operations, reaching an estimated 3.3 million households, are separated by just 85 miles of crowded interstate, and their coverage areas are bumping shoulders. Both news operations have become powerful forces in their respective markets, particularly in the morning and when severe weather threatens.”

Stay tuned.