Sunday, June 27, 2010

27 JUN 10: 47 to Nothing

Now this is amazing! Our topic today matches the score of Saturday's Youth Indoor Football League All-Star game. Yet it has nothing to do with Texas's big win over Columbus -- although if digital channel 47 had shown more games like that, it might not have dwindled to nothing this month.

But I should explain: television watching at my house is sporadic in several ways. With no cable or satellite service, it's broadcast-only. What I see depends on "rabbit ears," a long cable coming through the living room wall -- and oh yes, my body. Lean the wrong way while standing in a corner, and the 6:00 p.m. news might disappear.

So when I couldn't pick up one station's broadcast signal over the last few weeks, I didn't think much of it. After all, I lost GPB to "The Big Switch" last year -- and the letters begging me for donations finally seem to have stopped.

But now I know what happened to that missing station. It wasn't my TV set after all. The owners of WLGA-TV quietly took the station off the air three weeks ago. If the Ledger-Enquirer still hasn't done a story on it and no one e-mailed us about it, apparently it's not being missed very much.

WLGA apparently couldn't recover from the loss of The CW Network last year. CW programming is now on WLTZ's 38.2 -- when it isn't interrupted by some critical local program, like the daily Budget Car Sales infomercial during the noon hour.

I never understood why WLGA didn't go after My Network TV's prime-time programming. WXTX shows those programs after midnight, which I know upsets some Friday night wrestling fans. Instead of the entire family watching "WWE Smackdown," the children have to go lie down.

One thing I liked about WLGA in recent months was its telecasts of Southeastern Conference basketball. You could watch the Tennessee Lady Vols blow out an opponent every Sunday, then switch to ABC and watch the Los Angeles Lakers do the same thing.

WLGA tried to survive as an independent station, with everything from prime-time movies and evening game shows to reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show." But in 2010, too many people have cable or satellite TV and can see those things elsewhere. Maybe WLGA needed something different, local and popular - like coverage of Columbus poker tournaments.

Yet the online notice about WLGA's death offers this vague promise: "We anticipate that WLGA-TV will return to normal broadcast operations in the future...." What does that mean? Did some jealous engineer repeat what happened a few years ago, and knock over the station's antenna?

To get to the bottom of this, we made some phone calls Friday. WLGA's local office only has a terse message saying the station is off the air -- then a beep. I left a message, just in case someone checks that box. We'll see if someone calls back from bankruptcy court.

Then I called the headquarters of WLGA's owner. Pappas Telecasting is based in central California - and its latest online "news" item is the switch of WLGA from channel 66 with the station going independent. But of course, all that happened 14 months ago. I hope their stations with actual news departments are more current than that....

The woman who answered the phone at Pappas Telecasting couldn't comment on WLGA. But in a noteworthy sign, she gave me a phone number for an employee of Azteca America - a Spanish-language network, which has a low-power station in Atlanta. A check of the schedule indicates the highlight might be nightly Jerry Springer-style fights, with a different "Dr. Laura."

The Azteca America employee has yet to return our message - but could something be brewing here which I've predicted for years? Will Columbus soon have a full-time Spanish TV station? Could we trade "Access Hollywood" updates on Kate Gosselin for non-stop coverage of Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez?

We'll keep watching those dark spots on the dial - but in the meantime, let's see what's happening this weekend:

+ The Georgia Fraternal Order of Police held a conference in Columbus, and heard from several candidates for Georgia Governor. So which one promised to add Mayor Jim Wetherington to his staff?

+ Chattahoochee Valley Community College President Laurel Blackwell announced she'll retire in January. We hope she'll appreciate it when the proposed speed trap along U.S. 431 is named after her....

+ The "Georgia Highway 27 Association" held a meeting in Columbus. The group wants drivers to pull off the interstate, and appreciate the scenery along U.S. 27 - but please do it on weekends, so Harris County commuters won't be late getting to work in Columbus.

+ The country band Badhorse performed at the Phenix City Amphitheater. But when I jogged by, the crowd was meager compared with Percy Sledge three weeks ago -- so maybe more people would show up if the group was named Good-horse.

+ The Columbus Lions ended the regular season with a 38-20 win over Albany. Forget about the vuvuzela horns in the stands - who designed the Lions' uniforms, so you couldn't figure out their numbers? It almost looked like the "cancer pink" jerseys from several weeks ago faded away at the laundromat.

(The Lions next will have a home playoff game 8 July. That's the night before the Jehovah's Witnesses conference begins at the Civic Center - so I can't wait to see the team hand out "devil dolls" for choking and pounding.)

+ Columbus native Edwin Jackson pitched a no-hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks. One online source indicated Jackson threw 149 pitches. The way major league baseball games go these days, I thought that violated the union contract.

+ Instant Message to Club Oxygen: Wow - you have a parking space reserved on Broadway for the media?! Is Sonya Sorich showing up every night now, to check on contenders for "So You Think You Can Dance"?

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