|Medford's unique TV market reaches a critical crossroad|
|Medford's Broadcasting History|
|Behind the TV screens|
KDRV’s Evan Bell at the controls in the station’s Medford studio. The station is the acknowledged news leader, in part because of its investment in cutting-edge broadcast technology.
// Photo by Jamie Lusch
“But,” says Mark Hatfield, Chambers Communications (KDRV) managing director of news and programming, pointing to the bank of TVs on the wall of his office in Medford, “this is still the screen that people look at at the end of the day. We as news organizations will continue as long as we’re relevant and serve our communities. I actually think the future for this market is bright.”
Bright for whom? In fact, consolidation among the stations has already begun. In 2006, the local Fox affiliate, KMVU, contracted with KOBI for news coverage. The relationship has been “very successful,” Smullin says, and it adds a much-needed revenue stream to COBI’s coffers. While the partnership isn’t comparable to the situation in Redding-Chico, it represents a step in the direction of consolidation.
Many area residents would feel the loss of even one news operation. Medford and neighboring towns like Klamath Falls, Ashland, Grants Pass and Jacksonville have grown accustomed to excellent local news coverage, from Friday night high school football games to breaking news about weather, forest fires and traffic tie-ups, to information about charity fundraisers.
Steve Safron, editor of the online broadcast industry publication Lost Remote, thinks it unlikely that any of the networks would abandon Medford. “The networks care about those small markets,” he says. “It’s an aggregate thing; they want those households. They help sell advertising and they maintain their brands.”
Yet the networks might be inclined to reduce costs if possible. Combining news operations might make financial sense in a tight, small market, Fay says. But the community would lose an irreplaceable asset, says Melanie Wingo, a former KDRV reporter now with KATU in Portland.
Wingo says Medford viewers are devoted to their favorite news programs. “They will turn the dial when a [network] program ends to hear the news from the local team they’re loyal to,” she says. “You don’t always see that in larger markets.” She worries that Medford could become merely a satellite market to Eugene (No. 118), which has been growing in the number of households served as Medford has stagnated. KDRV is part of Chambers Communications, which is based in Eugene, but Hatfield says KDRV is not a satellinte station run out of Eugene. Hatfield is the market manager of KDRV, and managing director of news and programming for KDRV, KEZI in Eugene and KOHD in Bend, the result of a round of management layoffs in the summer of 2010.
“I hope no part of the Medford market goes away,” she says. “People there simply rely on their TV stations too much.”