By SCOTT FYBUSH
What a difference two years can make in the world of local TV! When we visited Providence, Rhode Island"s WJAR-TV (Channel 10) in the summer of 2010, the station was still broadcasting local news in standard definition, it was carrying Retro TV on its 10.2 subchannel, and it wasn"t yet operating a local news channel on Cox cable.
So consider this a bit of history already, then, as we take you inside 23 Kenney Drive in Cranston, Rhode Island on a warm summer"s day in August 2010. By then, Rhode Island"s oldest TV station had been at this location in a business park not far from T.F. Green Airport for a little over a decade, having departed its Dorrance Street studios downtown Providence in the late 1990s. (That former location is now part of Johnson & Wales University; WJAR"s original home in the nearby Outlet Company department store succumbed to fire in 1986.)
The Telemundo logo over the door belongs to ZGS Broadcasting"s low-power WRIW-CA (Channel 50), which operates from space in this building that had previously been leased out to Pax/ion outlet WPXQ (Channel 69) back in the days when many Pax stations operated under LMAs with their local NBC outlets. Before WPXQ was here, WJAR had yet another LMA partner, operating WLWC (Channel 28) from here back in that station"s WB/UPN days.
Arriving at WJAR in a time of transition, we got to see pieces of both Channel 10"s past and its future. The standard-definition control room for local productions had already been decommissioned by the summer of 2010, but it had not yet been gutted; the brand-new HD control room was up and running, but wasn"t yet producing local news in HD.
If anyone ever writes a definitive history of TV station design, it would be interesting to pinpoint the moment when the TV newsroom went from being a fairly small ancillary part of the building to the center of activity. I"d suspect the WJAR building must have been somewhere near the start of that trend; in any event, there"s a very spacious newsroom right at the heart of this facility, and it adjoins the main air studio, which uses a glass wall looking into the newsroom as part of its backdrop. (That"s the wall on the right side of the desk; the one behind the left side of the desk looks into the old control room.)
The set you see here was replaced as part of WJAR"s HD upgrade, complete with a new desk and a big monitor wall replacing the wood-panel backdrop behind the old set, so it"s another bit of history - and so is the set shown below in the production studio that adjoins the main air studio. That "Decision "10" set was there for a debate, if memory serves, and later on the old desk and wood-paneled backdrop from Studio A was moved into Studio B as a temporary set during the HD transition. (You can , too, if you"re so inclined!)
I believe WJAR"s master control comes out of a Media General hub in South Carolina (at WSPA-TV in Spartanburg), but there"s still a sizable tech center here - and I"m sure that, too, will look considerably different the next time I make to Rhode Island for an updated visit.
Oh, and perhaps you"d like to see WJAR"s transmitter facility up in Rehoboth, Massachusetts? We saw that on an earlier visit to the Providence market, and featured it on Tower Site of the Week back in 2009...
Thanks to WJAR"s Mark McMillen for the tour!
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Next week: WJAR studios, Providence, 2010