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20 July 2011

Rays of Light in Times of Disaster

Raycom bets on homegrown product

Michael Malone, Broadcasting & Cable

Headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama and with a cluster of stations across the Southeast, Raycom Media was in a unique position to cover the tornadoes that tore through the region recently. President/CEO Paul McTear says the group relied on well-drilled emergency plans to keep residents informed.

The tornadoes really hit Raycom's bread basket. What was that like?
If you looked at the map of Alabama April 27, there were more than a dozen major tornadoes. We had significant opportunities to warn our communities and report on our communities. Most of the Huntsville market was without power for six days. We had to more a generator out of storage in Montgomery, take it up to Huntsville, negotiate a deal with a gas station operator, then hook up the generator so we could pump gas from his storage tanks for the news vehicles to go out and continue coverage. Then we had to cut a deal to truck in fuel for the generator that operated the studio.

Our men and women that went out there as first responders saw a lot of damage, a lot of injury, a lot of loss of life. It's almost as if , in some cases, it was worse than what our troops see in Afghanistan and Iraq in the course of a week.

What words come to mind when you describe a Raycom station?
News and community.

Do you figure Raycom is a keeper of spectrum?
I can't envision any circumstances whereby we would sell any of it. We are fully utilizing it today, between our dot-2 business and some earmarking for mobile DTV. We are part of Pearl/MVC and have rolled out six television stations with mobile DTV. And we are launching Bounce on 26 of our dot-2s.

There's been a lot of interesting stuff going on with networks pushing affiliates for retrans. Is it fair play?
To me, it's just business as usual. We have completed our cycle with all our cable and satellite operators more than once. We've been successful in the open marketplace. We believe we will successfully negotiate all our affiliate agreements, with some kind of programming payment or whatever each network wants to all their version of it. Do I think they are using their leverage? Sure. But each broadcaster has to make his individual decision as to the price he is willing to pay for the privilege of airing that programming.

Might Raycom be a buyer or seller of stations?
We always look at strategic acquisitions. There's still lots of variables in the marketplace, spectrum and network affiliation issues. Until we're able to put those in black and white, it's very difficult to price something.

What do you make of NBC's framework to do retrans deals for affiliates?
I don't know specific details, but the theory of it is very interesting and something that Raycom would consider.