14 March 2006
The Boston rag
In 1969, the FCC revoked the license of WHDH-TV Boston, channel 5, owned by the Herald-Traveler Corporation, which also owned the Boston Herald Traveler newspaper, and accepted a competing application for the channel from Boston Broadcasters, Inc. The Herald fought back, but lost, and in 1972 channel 5 was taken over by BBI, using the call letters WCVB-TV.
(Note: The current WHDH-TV, owned by Miami's Sunbeam Television, is on channel 7 and was not involved with any of this.)
WHDH had been a CBS affiliate; BBI, as part of its application, vowed to run more locally-produced programming than any other station in the country, which scared CBS into dropping its affiliation. ABC, then languishing on channel 7, switched to 5. And BBI was as good as its word at least, in the early years. I was actually in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from the summer of '72 to the spring of '74, at the behest of Uncle Sam, so I got to see some of this stuff for myself; as I recall, some of it was a trifle too earnest at times, but channel 5 was my TV news source of choice.
But the station has been sold twice since then, and the standards that prevailed back in the Seventies are now well, you can well imagine:
TO: Heather Unrue, Ed HardingPosted at 7:15 AM to Overmodulation
WCVB News Team
The Boston Channel 5
SUBJECT: You make my mornings miserable
When I stagger out of bed on weekday morning sometime between 5:40 and 6:15, I turn on the news. I suppose one could ask why I turn on the news, although I'd hope the answer would be obvious. I turn on the news to find out (1) how cold it will be, (2) whether I need to bring an umbrella, (3) whether traffic problems will mean the T will be overcrowded, (4) whether, by some miracle, all businesses in the greater Boston area are closed and I may therefore slide back into bed, and (5) oh, you know, the news. These are the things for which I do not turn on the television: (1) vapid and hollow newscaster banter, (2) vapid and hollow newscaster opinions, (3) unfunny jokes about Seinfeld, Brokeback Mountain, fashion, or the weather, (4) a clip (played three times) of Jennifer Garner stumbling slightly at an event totally unrelated to anything that will happen today, (5) vapid and hollow chatter about how Jennifer Garner is just sooooo quick on her feet, and (6) anything else that is not news. I suppose, then, you could ask why I turn on Channel 5's news. This is why: your broadcast leads in to Good Morning America, and I'd much rather watch fifteen minutes of Diane Sawyer's faux empathy than Katie Couric's ever more orange attempt at recapturing her early thirties. Keep this up, though, and I'm gonna switch to reruns of Angel or My Two Dads and just chance it with the weather.