TV Or Not TV?

The tale of a city without a television station.

Akron, Ohio is a city of more than 200,000 people.  That's a far cry from its glory days as the heart of the tire and rubber-manufacturing business.  But the figure is still large enough to make Akron one of Ohio's largest cities.  Add in the population of the surrounding area, including the nearby city of Canton, Ohio, and you have a population center of more than a million people.

And it no longer has a television station of its own.

Why? Well, a lot of it has to do with the modern economics of the broadcast industry.  But part of it is because its residents didn't support the station it had. 

As most people know, Akron is little more than an hour away from Cleveland, and the Cleveland T.V. signals fairly easily reach Akron, even without cable.  The Akron station had a local newscast, and promoted the fact-and it's true-that its newscasts had far more local news than the Cleveland competition.  The Cleveland stations have reporters based in Akron for major stories, but rarely do more than one or two stories get on the Cleveland broadcasts, which are mostly Cleveland-based.  Still, Akron viewers preferred the big-city look of the Cleveland newscasts.

The Akron news continued until 1996, when new owners took over the station and discontinued the news department, leaving Akron without a local T.V. news outlet.  The Cleveland stations attempted to beef up their coverage of their "sister city", but Cleveland-area news still overwhelmingly dominates their broadcasts.  There was an attempt by a Cleveland station to do an Akron-intensive newscast on the Akron outlet (whose "city of license" was shifted to Cleveland), but that was eventually abandoned.  Akron news is now confined to its local newspaper (which has had staff and financial cutbacks), and a very scrappy local radio station.

Now, this is where Parkersburg-Marietta fits into this.  I am pleased to say viewers largely support WTAP, as they always have.  But I admit that I get annoyed when people say things like, "I get better local news from Huntington-Charleston".  I can still remember when our staff was one-fifth of what it is now, and we still aired more local news than a Huntington station which based a reporter in Parkersburg (something it hasn't done since the early 1990's).

As for a common complaint, our emphasis on Marietta/Washington County news: as General Manager Roger Sheppard has explained several times, those communities not only are part of our coverage area, they're part of the area in our ratings-designated television market.  Since it's unlikely Marietta will ever get its own television station (also because of the economics of broadcasting), we not only have a desire, but an obligation, to provide local news to that segment of the viewing area.  As is the case with Akron, there are areas across the country the size of Parkersburg-Marietta that do not have their own stations.  Many rely on stations in larger cities for local news: stations which rarely (if ever) provide regular coverage of those smaller communities. 

People, of course, are entitled to their opinions, and this blog, and all the others, provides you with an opportunity to express those opinions.  But people who constantly criticize our station need to know one thing: that we could have been without a television station at all.

Just like Akron.




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