For the first time in years, Charleston is getting a new television station. Well, sort of.
WHCP, the technical laughingstock of local broadcasting, is uprooting from Portsmouth Ohio, and moving to Charleston’s West Side, somewhere around the old Duchess Bakery building. While it’s cool that we’re getting a new TV station, I have some concerns.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that WHCP is moving to the West Side. It always seemed sort of alien seeing these funky low-budget commercials for small businesses in other states. While they billed themselves as serving “Huntington, Charleston, and Portsmouth”, it always seemed like Charleston got the short shrift. They should try to become a highly-visible presence and reach out and schmooze the community.
WHCP, in case you never noticed, has been on the air for five or six years, and is an affiliate of both the WB and UPN, which are known as “netlets” or “jokes” in terms of their stature among broadcast networks. The WB is notable for Smallville, and UPN is the home of WWE Smackdown! Aside from the fringe network programming, the hallmark of WHCP has been the sub-cable access quality of most of their local commercials and content.
That may end, with promises of massive upgrades from the new owners (who include Charleston-based legal eagles Mark Hunt and Margaret Workman, among others). At the very least, we may not see too many more commercials that use trademarked characters without any legal permission.
So, with WHCP moving to town, how about we welcome them with some sage advice? You listening, station owners?
First, get a new transmitter, preferably one that allows the transmission of stereo audio and hi-def video. The signal coming from the transmitter you use now looks like UHF coming in on a busted set of rabbit ears. Is that transmitter something you got second-handed from Public Broadcasting? Does that thing run on hamster-wheel power or something? You’re moving to Charleston, don’t forget to upgrade the broadcast quality to at least minimal professional standards.
Next, you want to do a newscast? Fine. I know that’s where the real money is, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that a fourth-place news program is going to be a cash cow. It’ll take years to get folks around here to switch. Your choice of anchor will bring in a lot of blue-haired old lady viewers, but make sure you hire a designated driver to cart him around.
Now, with those issues nailed down, you guys have to make one major change to your upcoming plans. You need to kill the idea of a Ten O’clock newscast. We already have one, and this market has a news glut of biblical proportions. Instead of putting your newscast on at 10 PM, you need to run your WB programming from 7 PM to 9 PM, and do a Nine O’clock newscast. That way, you can do a full hour (if you have the staff), and still go into your UPN programming at 10 PM, like you do now. And I won’t have to stay up past midnight to watch the end of Smackdown!.
To fill up that hour of news, you could do public affairs segments, like we used to get to see before the evil corporate media overlords took over local TV. Mark Hunt and Margaret Workman are going to be part owners of WHCP, so why not put them to work on camera, giving legal advice over the phone once a week.
Let local musicians come on and do a song to plug a festival or show. Do a live remote from a high-school football game. Just don’t do what channel 13 does and try to take ten minutes of local news and stretch it to fill up two-and-a-half hours every day.
Now, on my dream wish list, just in case someone from WHCP is actually reading this: Actively seek out local talent and allow them access to the air, even if it’s just a fringe weekend timeslot. There are lots of filmmakers and creative folks around here, and public access cable is not terribly friendly to Charleston-area peoples.
Oh, and you need to hire an announcer to be the “voice of the station”. Your best bet would be to find somebody with a strong local connection, but a person who hasn’t been on the air in, say, fifteen years or so. Find somebody with a distinctive voice that isn’t your typical booming announcer’s monotone. And pay him a ton of money to be your exclusive talent.
Get in touch, I may be able to…uh…find somebody for you.