Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Don’t be fooled by the bright sun, blue skies and green(-ish) grass in the pictures you see below. This week’s installment of Site of the Week features photos taken just as 2014 was flipping over to 2015, and whatever snow hadn’t yet fallen in central Indiana would show up in earnest back home just a few weeks later.
We’d been driving by the radio stations of Anderson, Indiana for over 20 years on the way from Fort Wayne down to Indianapolis, and this December day it was finally time to stop in and say hello at one of them.
WGNR (1470) and WGNR-FM (97.9) belong to the Moody Bible Institute these days, anchoring a network of stations around the state. When we first drove past their W. 53rd Street studios in the early 1990s, these stations were commercial as WHUT(AM) and WXXP(FM), and they were operating from an older building on the west side of the property.
Under Moody, which took over in 1998, that older building was turned into storage, with a new building rising just to the east. When we stopped by in December 2014, that new building had just recently been joined by a new guyed tower to replace the old self-supporter that had stood at this site for decades, and so of course we had to come see it – and get a tour of the new studios while we were at it.
This is a very nice modern studio facility indeed: walk in and you can see the main air studio. complete with SAS Rubicon console, through a window from the lobby. The air studio sits at one corner of a studio core that also includes a production room, a news booth and a studio that can be used for the AM station, though the AM had recently flipped to a simulcast of Moody’s Spanish-language broadcasts from WMBI (1110) up in Chicago.
A rack room behind the studio core has the guts of the operation, plus a wonderful old ABC Radio logo rack panel filling up the bottom of one of the racks, salvaged from the old studios next door.
The transmitters are in the back room, and they’re almost all BE – that’s the FM main at far left, the Harris FM aux next to that, and the main and aux BE units for AM 1470 in the foreground.
Out back, the new tower had just gone up in late September, and we took a peek at the folded unipole AM antenna that surrounds the taller tower with the FM antenna mounted up top for the class B FM that reaches from south of Indianapolis north almost to Fort Wayne.
But we weren’t on this trip just for Anderson – we were headed another 20 miles south to Indianapolis to get ready to watch a seismic change on the city’s TV dial. After 58 years as a CBS affiliate, WISH-TV (Channel 8) lost its Eye affiliation at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, swapping affiliations with the market’s longtime independent-turned-CW station, Tribune’s WTTV (Channel 4).
They were way too busy getting ready to launch the new CBS newscasts on channel 4 to give us a tour over at Tribune’s digs off I-465 on the west side, but when we pulled up for an exterior shot a day ahead of the swap we noted that the new “CBS 4” logo was already in place on the signs alongside sister Fox station WXIN (Channel 59).
On the other side of I-465, we also grabbed a quick shot from the road of the Cumulus studios, where the “i94” logo of WRWM (93.9) has presumably now been replaced by the new “93.9 the Beat” logo for the classic hip-hop station that rocketed to the top of the ratings despite a limited signal.
What we were really here to see, though, was downtown at the foot of the Meridian Avenue strip of TV studios. (We’d earlier chronicled other studios on the street in this installment.)
Who wins when TV stations in a market swap affiliations? Usually it’s the stations that aren’t swapping – and there’s no bigger winner in Indy right now than WTHR (Channel 13), the NBC affiliate owned by the Dispatch group out of Columbus. We’d visited here before, but we’ll show you a quick tour of the spacious newsroom, the HD control room and master control before moving on to the highlight of this visit.
That set above at right was set up in WTHR’s secondary studio for the moment because WTHR’s main studio had just completed a lengthy refurbishing that stripped it down to the bare walls and even redid the floor.
And check out the results! That spiffy new set had just recently made its on-air debut at the end of 2014, and it’s quite a piece of work. That’s a camera mounted on a rail that runs along the weather side of the set, a luxury few local stations can boast.
A fancy set is only as good as the staff backing it up, of course, and WTHR has that, too – so it’s no wonder that we’re told that WTHR sometimes draws as many viewers as all the other Indianapolis newscasts combined.
Thanks to WGNR’s Nancy Graves and Kelli Thompson for the tour!
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Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re (finally!) back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
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Next week: Fort Wayne goes through big changes, 2014-2015