09.01.2003 12:00 PM
WOTV, Battle Creek, closes news operation; DTV transition cited as a contributor of financial woes

WOTV, Channel 41, in Battle Creek, Michigan, last week closed its Battle Creek news operation, laying off 24 staffers and leaving the Cereal City without a locally anchored news program.

The station cited diminished financial prospects and too much competition as reasons for the action. Channel 41's sister station, NBC affiliate WOOD TV-8, will put its Grand Rapids-based newscast on Channel 41 to fill the void, reports said. Channel 41 remains an ABC affiliate and other programming will not change.

News related to Battle Creek and Kalamazoo will be supplied to Channel 8 by four remaining Battle Creek-based WOTV staff members. In addition, 20 employees in sales, engineering and production will remain at the station, said Diane Kniowski, general manager of LIN Television West Michigan, which operates WOOD, WOTV, WXSP and WZPX.

In the last three years, ad sales have gone from double-digit yearly increases to declines, Kniowski said in an interview with the Battle Creek Enquirer. Financially, WOTV broke even in the past, but lost money last year.

“Everybody doesn’t have enough ad revenue,” said Kniowski, who told employees about the cuts at a staff meeting. “... 2001 was a devastating year. It’s not that business is so bad, it’s that it’s not double-digit increases and it’s unpredictable.”

She said the station’s money troubles weren’t helped after it spent nearly $2 million last year to upgrade to DTV transmission capability under the FCC mandate. There was no immediate return on investment, and any potential benefits are “10 years away,” Kniowski said.

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