Media Watch

KGUN Gains One from, Loses One to Michigan

KGUN Channel 9 has gained a general manager and is losing a morning anchor.

Meanwhile, Traverse City, Mich., has lost a general manager and is gaining a former Tucson morning anchor.

If this were a sports story, it would seem to detail some 1-on-1 player trade. Instead, simple coincidence has connected the two markets.

Julie Brinks, KGUN's new general manager, makes the move to the desert Southwest from the NBC affiliate in Traverse City. Meanwhile, longtime KGUN on-air personality Phil Buehler has accepted a news-anchor position with WWTV, the CBS affiliate in Traverse City.

"We've been here 10 years," Buehler said. "My family is looking for a change. My wife is excited about getting out of the desert."

Buehler started his decade-long stint at KGUN as the No. 2 sports personality behind Dave Silver.

"Dave used to cover me when I was playing high school basketball when we beat (former UA/San Antonio Spurs star) Sean Elliott's team my junior season," Buehler said. "I still kid Dave about that. He's been here a long time. I (could) stay on the morning show, which is nice, with Kimberly (Romo, currently on maternity leave). She's a great co-anchor, and I love working with the crew, but getting up at 2 in the morning wears thin when you have young kids. I can only live on four hours' sleep for so long before the bags start showing on my eyes. My mom says, 'You need to get some sleep.' Tell me when."

Well, maybe at the end of November, once Buehler starts handling prime-time anchor duties in market No. 116, a dip from Tucson's No. 68 ranking.

"Not that I'm Mr. Ego, but if you're going to get a job at a smaller station, it's good to get the main gig," said Buehler. "It's really nice up there. It's a big tourist area. Most people aren't familiar with it: golf courses, lakes. It's really attractive up there, super green."

And what about Buehler's first experience with a Michigan winter?

"I told my wife we're going to get satellite TV for UA basketball before we get heat," said Buehler. "Obviously, you'll have the four seasons, and the winters are harsh, but you know what? You get cabin fever up there in January and February, and you get cabin fever here in June, July and August. I can't send my kids to play in the playground in June, July and August. They'll burn their hands on the monkey bars. It's brutal. That's the tradeoff. You don't go outside here in the summer time. You don't go outside there in the winter. It's like an adventure.

"Everyone in our family is on board. They're all anxious to do it. It's a good deal."


Radio stations nationwide are converting their signals to high definition, and generally, that's a good thing. Among the benefits, it creates a significant sound improvement for AM programming and allows stations to add entirely new formats.

But with every new technology comes unique glitches.

One glitch has come in the form of providing live sports coverage. It's not uncommon for sports fans to watch a game at home on TV and turn down the sound to listen to the radio broadcast. Also, some fans listen to the radio while watching the game live at the stadium. The advent of HD makes that significantly more difficult.

Here's the rub: The HD conversion process takes 8 seconds. As a result, the HD signal a listener hears occurs 8 seconds after it's been broadcast from the source.

The simple way to alleviate this issue for home viewers would be to delay the analog signal by 8 seconds, thus syncing the signals. But if you're at the stadium watching the game live, you'd still be receiving the HD play-by-play 8 seconds after you saw it happen. That can be quite annoying.

The simple fix for fans? Go with analog. But nothing is really all that simple when it comes to this process.

KCUB AM 1290 The Source, the station that broadcasts UA football and basketball games in Tucson (and which gives me a paycheck to do pregame and postgame shows), goes analog all day during football game days, not just during game time. That's one day a week. But when basketball season arises, the number of game days will at least double, leaving HD out of the loop for a good portion of the calendar. That's not necessarily a good thing for a station that struggles with signal strength as it is.

Citadel Tucson chief engineer Mark Simpson is also concerned about the potential for Federal Communications Commissions violations. Here's the scenario: 1290 operates with a 40-second delay during nonsports HD programming, as a precautionary measure. The station incorporates a standard 4.75-second delay during analog sports broadcasts for the purposes of synching with TV (TV signals take about 4.75 seconds longer to arrive than radio signals)--and this could open the door for serious issues on a station that has other live programming.

"Monday through Friday, if we think we're at a 40-second delay, and the board op hears someone drop an F-bomb ... and instead, (the delay is) set for 4.75 seconds to time with the TV broadcast--well, guess what? The F-bomb just went over the air, and you get a $100,000 fine," Simpson said. "For me, it's not worth doing this. Would I love to do it? Yeah, but could I do it without potentially costing a lot in fines? No."

These are not problems unique to Tucson. At KTAR in Phoenix, where live sporting events are a regular occurrence, analog is the mode of operation as well. However, during Phoenix Suns games at U.S. Airways Arena, KTAR has set up a building-specific transmitter that allows fans who want to listen to the game while in attendance to hear the direct feed.

"At US Airways Arena, we used to give them a feed from the station, and we ran into inherent problems, because we tried to sync our on-air signal with the TV," said KTAR chief engineer Ed Knight. "That would screw up the people listening from a rebroadcast transmitter at the arena. What we did there was take a feed right off the announcer's mixing board and feed it right into the rebroadcast transmitter within the building, so they got actual time. But anything outside, we'd just shut off the HD.

"If there ever comes a time when the FCC says no more analog, just HD, we're going to have to delay people."

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