Friday, May 22, 2009

Tough times for local TV news

We've heard and read so much about the troubles in the newspaper industry, but there's hardly been any coverage of the struggles facing television newscasts. Until now. Call it payback, but The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a lengthy article this week about the declining fortunes of local TV news focusing on the Philadelphia market.

Things are so bad that stations are getting rid of their news choppers and in one case, two stations are sharing the same chopper, the newspaper reports. What's next? Cutting the makeup and hair product budget for the anchors?

From the article by the Inky's television critic Jonathan Storm:
More than 440,000 viewers, on average, are missing in prime time, a drop of 25 percent. Despite the excitement of the presidential election - or maybe because it moved viewers to cable news - ratings for local evening news shows nationwide dropped 11.4 percent from November 2007 to November 2008. (Late news shows dropped 3.7 percent, according to Nielsen.)

Advertisers, particularly in the auto industry, have headed for the exits. Nearly $200 million in revenue, 25 percent, vanished from the Philadelphia TV market between 2004, the previous Olympic and presidential election year, and 2008, according to BIA Advisory Services, the leading industry financial analysts.

Not only is that revenue not coming back, the forecasters say, an additional $50 million will be missing by 2012.
Storm also points out how there's been a total blackout of coverage within the TV industry of its struggles (unlike newspapers, which often report bad news about their own.)

From his story:
Unlike their peers in the newspaper business, where reports of trouble have turned into an almost daily dirge, TV people generally try to keep a tight lid on bad news at the office. Preliminary results of a new Annenberg School for Communication study of major newspapers and TV news outlets in the last nine years show that newspaper stories about declining readership outnumbered TV reports about declining viewership by a 41-to-1 ratio.
Read the full story at the Inquirer's Web site.

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