Saturday, January 07, 2006


KARK-TV, channel 4, was the second “major” station on the air here in Arkansas back in the early 50s. It did a good job for us, with good equipment and equally good people to operate it, plus NBC’s programming.

At some point, however, it started going Wrong. In my return to this state, my mind registers the start of the slide as the day the station decided my old colleague and classmate, Tommy Bonner, had been with the station too damn long and ignominiously dumped him on the street after 20+ years with the operation, both on camera and in the executive suite. (When last heard of, Tommy was handling PR for Arkansas Childrens’ Hospital).

Then came the “portal wars.” A “portal” is the home page that comes up when you first go on the internet. It’s your choice. (To change it, go up to “Tools,” select “Internet Options,” and finally just put the URL of your portal of choice in the top slot). That portal or “home page” is considered valuable real estate, which is why some of the sneakier of the internet scam artists will feed a vicious little line-or-two of code in when you’re not looking and, ouila!, your home page has been changed!

A lot of companies operate portal sites and they’d love to have you select them: Google™, Yahoo!™ etc.

I use MSNBC. I like the things with which I can choose to customize it. Among these optional items are headlines and links to stories selected by your local NBC station or other news organization which, if you choose Little Rock, is KARK-TV.

Valuable, valuable real estate on the cyber highway, but TV4 hasn’t figured it out yet. I’ve seen the same headlines up for as long as two weeks at a time. I got so disgusted at one point that I wrote them a letter of complaint and heard from a VP that they were working on it. That was a year ago, and their attention to that site is just as patchy as it’s been for the past several years. Frequently, it’s been national headlines instead of local, and THEY’RE several days old before they get changed.

I may change my option to Conway’s Log Cabin Democrat, which is the option you get if you just select by Zip Code here in Searcy.

But KARK-TV hit the absolute bottom last night. As a DirecTV subscriber, I set my Tivo to record “The Book of Daniel.” I record all my primetime selections and watch off the recorder, because it’s rare for what I watch before primetime to end right on the clock tick.

Anyway, when at 10 past the hour I tuned in to watch the two-hour premiere episode, I got total darkness. I called DirecTV’s English-as-a-second-language Technical Support department to have it suggested that I totally re-set my Tivo/receiver.

Instead, I “live-tuned” channel 4 … and Ohmigod! there was a program on there … but it was NOT “The Book of Daniel.” It was some kind of Not-Ready-for-Primetime hastily thrown-together public opinion BS program called “Voices of Arkansas” which DEFINITELY had no business being aired by any reputable TV station unless the operation was totally desperate.

Going out to KARK’s web site, there was a banner at the top of their home page announcing that they weren’t going to air “The Book of Daniel.” Hitting the banner got you the following message:

“After careful consideration, watching the program and most importantly listening to our viewers and engaging them in dialogue, we have decided not to air the NBC program The Book of Daniel this Friday night. We appreciate hearing from so many of our viewers who expressed their heartfelt opinions on both sides of the issue.

“You can watch the Book of Daniel on KWBF-TV, WB 42 right here in Central Arkansas. It will air Friday, January 6th at 8pm.”

In other words, they caved to the religious right and very noisy minority. WB42 then did what they had a perfectly legitimate right to do, which is to ask NBC for carriage rights, since their local affiliate chose not to carry it (we used to do that in Miami with NBC’s Monday Night Movie. The local affiliate found out they could make more money running their own old movie with local advertising, so we got the good stuff from the network).

Now, there are several problems with this. To begin with, if KARK let Tivo, DirecTV or anyone else know about this programming change in advance, I saw no signs of it, hence my Tivo’s confusion: one program scheduled, a different one actually airing, and 15 minutes of nothing but black and an error message on my hard drive.

No crawl during their half-assed “special” telling people where to go. I have no idea if they made a courtesy announcement at the beginning of that miserable excuse for Friday night programming they aired. In any case, if you didn’t have internet access and the smarts to use it, you didn’t know what to do unless you called long distance on your own dime to ask, and I’ll bet the phone lines were hot!

Moving on …. WB42 is a low-power station that survives by virtue of its satellite and cable mandatory coverage, plus a small network of repeater stations (including channel 56 here in Searcy. Did’ja know that?). I’m glad they carried it, but I was a little put off by their choice of commercials for the local spot availabilities in the two-hour premiere. I like looking at well-built and scantily-clad young ladies as much as the next guy (whether he’ll admit it or not), but I found the two chief sponsors over the line in bad taste when included in a program that features dialogues between our (Hero??) and Jesus.

The program itself was cute and has potential. If it serves no other purpose, it gives you a yardstick against which to measure your own problems. They should have called the namesake character Job instead of Daniel. Nonetheless, it was well done, the theology when expounded faultless. Excellent casting.

Watch it – if the religious right lets you. Tune in and see what happens next Friday night at 9 on channel 4 OR WB42.


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