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Utica’s WUTR to Revive Local News Operation

UTICA/ROME — Almost eight years since Clear Channel shut down the newsroom at ABC affiliate WUTR Channel 20, the station’s current management announced today plans to revive the newsroom across the street from longtime market dominator WKTV.  Local newscasts will also be added to the lineups of Fox 33 (WFXV) and MyNetwork 11 (WPNY-LP).

The announcement was made during a “Fox 25th anniversary event” held today at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Utica by Stephen Merren, the VP and GM of Nexstar Broadcasting.  Nexstar owns WFXV and WPNY-LP, and operates WUTR, a Mission Broadcasting property, through an LMA.  Shortly after the agreement was formed earlier in the decade, WFXV and WPNY-LP moved from their original location in Rome, into the WUTR building atop Smith Hill in the Town of Deerfield, just north of Utica — and right across the street from WKTV.

Merren announced local news will air weeknights as follows:

  • 6:00pm on WUTR (ABC 20)
  • 7:00pm on WPNY-LP (MyNetwork 11)
  • 10:00pm on WFXV (Fox 33)
  • 11:00pm on WUTR (ABC 20)

In a press release released today, Merren said:

“It has been eight years since local news has been broadcast on WUTR, and viewers have made it known they want us to bring high quality news back to the local market. FOX and ABC are the top two networks in primetime and their highly rated programming will provide solid lead-ins to our new local evening news this fall.”

Aside from Merren’s above reference to “this fall,” the press release mentions “mid-September” for the debut, but no specific date has been announced.  The announcement doesn’t mention how many people will be hired to staff the news operation, whether any hires (like a news director) have already been made at this point — or when applications will be accepted for additional personnel.  However, the Utica Observer-Dispatch says Merren plans to hire 12 people — and the 7pm show on WPNY-LP will simply be a taped replay of the 6pm WUTR newscast.

Notably, Merren served for a long time as the GM of his main competitor — WKTV.  It shall be interesting to see what kind of a local news operation Merren can build out of the station he was proudly steamrolling only a decade earlier.

When Clear Channel became the owner of WUTR when it acquired The Ackerley Group in 2002, FCC ownership rules in effect at the time required Clear Channel to spin off either WUTR or four of the nine Utica/Rome radio stations it had owned.  Clear Channel chose to divest WUTR, eventually shutting down the newsroom in August 2003 as a way to slash expenses and make the station look more attractive to potential buyers.

Complete Announcement from Nexstar/Mission Broadcasting

Here is the full announcement as posted on CNYHomepage.com today:

WFXV, WUTR AND WPNY ELEVATE UTICA COMMUNITY CONTENT OFFERINGS WITH THE ADDITION OF NEW LOCAL NEWS PROGRAMMING

- Four Daily News Broadcasts Planned Beginning Mid-September -

UTICA and ROME, New York (March 31, 2011) – At the FOX 25th anniversary event held today at the Radisson Hotel in Utica, Stephen Merren, Vice President and General Manager for Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXST) announced the expansion of its community focused content with the launch of local news programming for WFXV, WUTR, and WPNY, the FOX, ABC and MyNetworkTV stations serving the Utica and Rome markets.

The new local news programming for all three stations is expected to air by mid-September and will offer news, sports, weather, Doppler radar, local breaking and feature news, and live coverage of select community events. Bringing viewers a new opportunity to get Utica’s most comprehensive news when and where they want it, WUTR will air news at 6:00 p.m., WPNY will air news at 7:00 p.m., WFXV Fox 33 will air news at 10:00 p.m. and WUTR will again air news at 11:00 p.m. In addition to in-depth coverage of the day’s biggest news developments, each station’s interaction with viewers through social media applications will allow viewers to shape coverage and provide input on the market’s most relevant developments. News anchors, features and other scheduling and programming details will be made available in the coming months at www.cnyhomepage.com.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns WFXV and WPNY and through an Outsourcing Agreement provides services to WUTR, which is licensed to Mission Broadcasting.

Steve Merren added, “It has been eight years since local news has been broadcast on WUTR, and viewers have made it known they want us to bring high quality news back to the local market. FOX and ABC are the top two networks in primetime and their highly rated programming will provide solid lead-ins to our new local evening news this fall. As such, the strength of these networks combined with our additional community content and local programming will provide attractive marketing solutions to our advertisers and we believe this is a win-win scenario for our viewers, the community at large and local businesses.”

Timothy Busch, Executive Vice President and co-Chief Operating Officer of Nexstar Broadcasting, commented, “Conversations with viewers and advertisers continually revealed a need for quality local news and community content in Utica. As our community grows and becomes more diverse, we are raising our commitment to providing the most relevant, topical and progressive programming for our viewers and we will advance that initiative through the production of the market’s most compelling and informative local news programming. Changing lifestyles demand more opportunities for our viewers to get their news when they want it and where they want it and with four daily news broadcasts and online and mobile access to this content, we expect to squarely address this preference.

“For the first time in WFXV’s history, we have an incredible opportunity to offer local news content to complement the station’s highly popular programming schedule. In addition to their favorite FOX network entertainment, game show, and sports programming, our viewers will be able to watch the community event coverage and local news programming they demanded.”

Got News?

Our thanks to CNYTVNews.com reader Jeff Moulton who told us he had heard something about this — prompting us to track down the official announcement.  Anytime you’ve got wind of something happening in TV or Radio in the markets we cover, email cnyradio@cnyradio.com or click “Contact” in the menu at the top of the page.  Requests for anonymity are always honored — but if you’re really paranoid about getting caught as “the mole,” remember you don’t need to include your name or email address when you use the Contact Form.

One Comment to Utica’s WUTR to Revive Local News Operation

  1. JMyrleFuller says:

    Why do I have a feeling this is an April Fool’s joke?

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