News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 30, 2011

Channel 38 switching from Fox to ABC

TERRE HAUTE — “Desperate Housewives” will soon arrive in area living rooms directly from a local TV station.

In fact, all ABC television programming, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Bachelor” and “Dancing with the Stars,” will soon be provided by Terre Haute’s own Channel 38, currently a Fox Network affiliate.

For the past 16 years, ABC programming in Terre Haute has been available only on pay television, such as cable or satellite TV. Beginning Sept. 1, WFXW-TV Channel 38 will become WAWV-TV Channel 38, an ABC station. “We’re really excited because this does offer additional programming options and opportunities,” said Tim Sturgess, general manager of Fox 38 and WTWO-TV Channel 2.

“We just think it’s going to be a great thing for our viewers and a great thing for the community of Terre Haute, which hasn’t had a local ABC affiliate since the mid 1990s,” Sturgess said.

Nexstar, which operates WFXW and more than 30 other TV stations, has been splitting from Fox in several television markets. According to media reports, Nexstar and Fox have been fighting over the terms of affiliation agreements for about a year. In a news release issued Tuesday, Nexstar stated that the company has entered into a long-term agreement with ABC for nine of its owned or operated stations, including WFXW.

The move to ABC is a return to Channel 38’s roots. The station began broadcasting in Terre Haute in 1973 as WIIL-TV, an ABC affiliate. The station became WBAK in 1977 and dropped its affiliation with ABC for Fox in 1995.

How the latest change will affect local news broadcasting on Channel 38 is still a little unclear, but at least one change seems certain. Currently, WFXW airs a 10 o’clock local news program produced by WTWO-TV Channel 2. That program will go away under the ABC affiliation because the network has prime time programming that runs until 11 p.m., Sturgess said.

“A lot of things could happen down the road regarding the news,” Sturgess said Wednesday. “Right now, we certainly will have a news presence on ABC, but I can’t really talk specifics because nothing’s firm just yet.”

There will be no immediate change in the number of employees at WTWO-TV or the soon-to-be WAWV, Sturgess said. Eventually, however, the station may add some new employees, he said.

Nexstar, based in Irving, Texas, owns WTWO while Mission Broadcasting of Brecksville, Ohio owns WFXW. However, Nexstar has an agreement with Mission Broadcasting to operate both stations, Sturgess said.

It was also not immediately clear how the change will affect local cable or satellite television service. Nexstar and Time Warner Cable officials could not be reached late Wednesday for comment. At present, ABC television programming is provided on Time Warner Cable using WRTV-TV Channel 6 in Indianapolis.

For nine years, WTHI-TV Channel 10, a local CBS affiliate, produced the 10 o’clock news on Channel 38. That arrangement ended in 2004, not long after Mission Broadcasting purchased WBAK.

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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