Business

Northland pulls the plug on news program

"The cable will soon be cut on the island’s televised news-and-sports broadcasts.Northland Cable Television, which produced the five-minute segments airing during CNN Headline News broadcasts from its High School Road headquarters since 1993, will tape its last show Jan. 28.Marit Saltrones, Northland Cable’s business manager, cited the lack of local advertising support as the reason for the news program’s demise.“We provide news to 5,400 subscribers,” Saltrones said. “The numbers just don’t work out to support a news department until you’ve got at least 10,000. Local advertisers, by and large, have not united to invest their advertising dollars in the news. “It just hasn’t been able to pay for itself.”The dissolution of the department also means the deletion of three Northland jobs. News director Jon Rauch will move full-time into commercial advertising production with the company, while sports anchor Blair Johnson had already resigned to take join KCPQ-TV in Tacoma. News anchor Krista Carlson’s job was also cut.“It wasn’t really a surprise,” said Johnson, who has covered sports for the company since 1997. “It was mentioned to us in early December that the possibility was out there. This is part of the business, and the TV industry is a fickle business.”The show, which has seen its costs subsidized by the company by increasing degrees each year, began as a labor of love for the island’s cable provider.The first broadcasts began in July 1993, with anchor Megan Snow and sportscaster Shannon Carr initially taping reports on the island and producing them for broadcast at Northland’s Port Angeles studio. Since then, the program has evolved into a fully local product, serving as a launching pad for young broadcasting talents fresh out of college to network-affiliate jobs higher in the TV industry hierarchy.Bainbridge has proven to be a fertile proving ground, Saltrones said.“It’s highly unusual to have news programs for cable systems of this size,” she said, noting that there are fewer than 100 locally produced cablecasts out of thousands of systems nationwide. “Northland (originally) saw the Bainbridge system as a showplace cable system. They wanted to offer everything here.“For a time, it was okay to underwrite that cost, although it wasn’t the normal practice of the business.”Saltrones, who declined to offer specifics about the cost of producing the news broadcasts, said the move should not be interpreted as any sign that Northland is not “fully committed” to continue as Bainbridge’s cable purveyor. The money saved will be put into expanding Northland’s cable and Internet offerings.Northland, with a franchise area that also includes Suquamish and Indianola, has completed about 65 percent of a service upgrade that has been in the works for years, Saltrones said. A Winslow upgrade was just completed, and the Manzanita and Battle Point neighborhoods are next.A fee hike also was recently announced for subscribers, to go with the addition of several new programming channels.Northland advertisers said they’ll miss the news program strictly as viewers.“The local news is but a fraction of what we’re on,” said Judy Lindsley, co-owner of Lindsley’s Classic Clothing For Bainbridge on Winslow Way. “The other segments were just as important, if not more so. That’s where people were watching us.“The local broadcast being eliminated doesn’t concern me one way or the other, other than it was good news.”That latter, many say, is what will most be missed about Northland Cable News.“It’s been fun for us,” said Kim Beemer, a leading player on the Bainbridge High School girls’ basketball team. “We all have grandparents and aunts and uncles who come up to us and say they saw us on TV. It was a way for people who can’t come to our games to follow us. “It adds up to something nice for the community.”"

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