In a move designed to strengthen its news identity and bolster its tepid ratings, KCBS-TV Channel 2 is launching a major restructuring of its news operation that will reestablish a daily hourlong newscast at 6 p.m. and introduce a morning news show.
The format changes, which begin on April 8, will include the elimination of the station's 4-5 p.m. newscast, the relocation of the "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" from 6 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and an as-yet-to-be-determined change in duties for veteran anchor Jerry Dunphy, who rejoined KCBS last year in a highly publicized and costly move from rival KCAL-TV Channel 9.
Larry Perret, KCBS news director, said the moves signal the station's desire to better serve viewers with more conveniently scheduled news shows and to place a higher priority on local news in the early evening when many people are just getting home from work.
"We took a look at what made sense for the marketplace in terms of commuting patterns and the competitive situation," Perret said. "We just don't want to be part of the pack."
In addition, Perret said, a revamped half-hour newscast at 5 p.m., to be anchored by Linda Alvarez and Larry Carroll, will "be tightly paced and story driven," with no features and only a brief weather update.
In August, KCBS will inaugurate a 90-minute newscast on weekdays at 5:30 a.m. The format and anchors for that newscast are still being determined. The station two years ago got rid of a 6 a.m. newscast that preceded "CBS This Morning."
The restructuring plan is being implemented even though KCBS is without a permanent general manager. William Applegate left that post in December not long after Westinghouse took over ownership of CBS. Perret said the changes have "the full support" of Westinghouse.
Whether they result in increased ratings will be a major test for the station, which has run third in local news behind KABC-TV Channel 7 and KNBC-TV Channel 4 for most of the past two decades. Most recently, its afternoon and early evening news shows were clobbered during the February ratings sweeps. KCBS' 4 p.m. newscast attracted only half as many viewers as the Channel 4 news, and only one-third as many as Channel 7.
The keystone of the new KCBS plan is the scheduling of a 6 p.m. newscast seven days a week, which will be the only daily hourlong local newscast in that time slot. Both KNBC and KABC have half-hour newscasts at 6 p.m., followed by the network news at 6:30.
KCBS' hourlong 6 p.m. newscast was terminated 10 years ago when the station moved the national news from 7 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to compete with NBC's national newscast at 6:30 p.m.
"But that 6 p.m. newscast was deeply rooted in tradition," Perret said. "It's what the viewer wants--an in-depth look at the news at that hour, and we will provide it." He added that the newscast will assume "the classic role as the broadcast of record."
The 6 p.m. newscast will be anchored on weekdays by Michael Tuck and Ann Martin, who are currently anchors of the 5 p.m. newscast. The pair will both continue to anchor the station's 11 p.m. newscast. Brad Goode will anchor both weekend 6 p.m. broadcasts.
On April 8, the syndicated "Day & Date," which currently airs at 3 p.m., will move to 4 p.m., replacing the local news now in that slot. "Geraldo" will move from 2 to 3 p.m., and another syndicated show still to be determined will air at 2 p.m.
The elimination of the 4 p.m. broadcast leaves the fate of veteran newsman Dunphy up in the air. Perret said, "Obviously we respect Jerry, and we will work with him to find another role at the station." Dunphy could not be reached for comment.