Is it the right time for Local 6’s 7 p.m. news?

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While was offline with technical difficulties last week, WKMG-Local 6 announced its new 7 p.m. newscast. And I have a couple of observations about that.

A 1981 newspaper ad for NewsCenter 2, with Mary Ollie Newman and John Andreucci, touting its 7 p.m. newscast.

First, the news: Channel 6 will ditch it’s hourlong news from 6-7 p.m. starting Jan. 3. Instead, it will offer a half hour at 6 p.m., followed by the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric at 6:30, then another half hour of news at 7 p.m. “A newscast can be successful at 7 p.m.,” Local 6 GM Skip Valet told Sentinel TV Guy Hal Boedeker. “We’ve seen a lot of growth in the 6 p.m. newscast in the last two months.”

Well, not so fast. Local 6 has been dwelling in the ratings cellar for awhile. Its idea of doing local news at 6:30 p.m. while the others did national news (or aired TMZ), was a novel idea — until WFTV started up its own 6:30 p.m. local newscast on sister station WRDQ-Channel 27 and started beating WKMG. So, to me, Local 6 is looking to move to another time period where it can try to have the local news audience to itself.

But if Orlando TV history is any guide, this move is doomed.  Back in 1981, WESH was the only station in town doing 60 minutes of news in the evening — airing NewsCenter 2 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. It had been doing so for years. But in a move that still seems baffling, it decided to change and do a half hour at 6 p.m. and another half at 7 p.m., sandwiching NBC Nightly News. (Sound familiar?)  “The Right News at the Right Time,” was how Channel 2 marketed the move. Wrong! WFTV was all too eager to expand into the 5:30 timeslot left vacant by WESH. WFTV’s 5:30 news has continued ever since, while  Channel 2’s little-watched “NewsCenter at 7” was quickly forgotten.

The second 7 p.m. newscast in Orlando was even more short-lived than WESH’s. It was a WFTV-produced newscast on WRDQ-Channel 27 during the early days of the Iraq War in 2003. The war went on for years but the newscast lasted for just days.

Have times changed enough that Orlando viewers want local news at 7 p.m.? Personally, I doubt it.

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Roger Simmons has been blogging about Orlando television since 2001. You can email him at