WRBL-TV Cuts Back on News

Telecasts fall to Media General scrimping
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COLUMBUS, GA.: WRBL-TV is dropping two of its five weekday newscast. Local media outlets are noting that the CBS affiliate has dropped its noon and 5 p.m. newscasts. While the station’s Web site carries no obvious mention of the change, it is posting its midday newscast online as reported by the Ledger-Enquirer.

Otis Pickett, station vice president and general manager, cited economic conditions as the motivation for the cutback. No correlative layoffs were announced, but WRBL is owned by Media General of Richmond, Va., which is cutting 130 jobs across its newspapers and 19 TV stations.

TV spot spending in the Columbus designated market area--No. 128 out of 210--was down more than 6 percent for 2008 compared to the previous year, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising. The medium nonetheless retained more than half the market share, selling more than $125 million in air time across around half-a-dozen local stations.

WRBL will retain its 6 a.m., 6 and 11 p.m. weekday newscasts. Back-to-back episodes of “Two and a Half Men,” will be plugged into the early evening time slot.

Media General announced last week it would close news bureaus serving its properties in the Tampa, Florida market, where its NBC affiliate, WFLA-TV cancelled newscasts. Media General (NYSE: MEG) also shut down its news bureau in Washington, D.C. after 30 years of operation. The company posted a $632 million net loss for 2008. Shares of the company are trading at around $2 each. -- Deborah D. McAdams