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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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CBS’s Island Buy

CBS Television Stations’ bid to acquire Melville-based WLNY-TV moved forward last week as the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) initial public comment period on the proposed transaction concluded with no one objecting to the deal.

First announced publicly in December 2011, CBS Television Stations has signed a definitive agreement to purchase for $55 million an independent television station founded by its seller, Michael Pascucci’s WLNY Holdings Inc., in the 1980s. Having derived its call letters from We Love New York, WLNY-TV is Channel 10 if you are a cable subscriber. Channel 55 is where you’ll locate WLNY-TV if your household has either a satellite provider or relies on over-the-air service.

‘Why should I care about any of this?’ is probably the question you’re asking yourself, and I’ll try to answer that now. Today, WLNY-TV offers a mix of first-run syndicated programming, such as Dr. Phil and Judge Judy, and movies, along with a live 11 p.m. weekday broadcast that continues for 30 minutes and highlights Long Island news. Channel 10/55 also airs every Sunday afternoon a half-hour Nassau/Suffolk public affairs program called FOCUS. But CBS says Long Islanders can expect to see more local news programming when their purchase of WLNY-TV is finalized.

“The combined strengths of CBS 2 [WCBS-TV] and WLNY-TV will give us a terrific platform for serving the entire New York area. Our plans for the station include adding people and resources to fuel a significant expansion of local news programming well beyond the nightly half hour that currently airs,” said Peter Dunn, president, CBS Television Stations, in a news release. “And, of course, in doing so, we will continue to honor the station’s already deep commitment to serving the people of Long Island and the entire tri-state area. We also look forward to having a bigger and better news bureau on Long Island that will be a terrific resource for WCBS.”

Cablevision’s News 12 Long Island does an excellent job covering news of interest to Nassau and Suffolk County residents and Verizon’s FiOS One Long Island has entered the 24/7 all-news fray in recent years. About 2.7 million New Yorkers reside in Nassau and Suffolk counties so there’s plenty of source material (e.g., government, education, crime, sports and weather) and a huge potential television audience for Long Island news.

WLNY-TV has about 70 full-time employees who work in its main office at 270 South Service Road, Melville, and how they’ll be integrated into the CBS Television Stations’ master plan for Channel 10/55 remains to be seen. As part of the acquisition, CBS will also be the new owner of WLNY-TV’s broadcast tower in Ridge, NY.

The business rationale for CBS taking this step is understandable. It’ll give them two TV stations, a so-called duopoly, in the nation’s largest media market, something CBS already has in nine other cities: Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, and San Francisco. They can also provide news content to Channel 10/55 through their other local media assets, which, in addition to WCBS-TV, include CBS Radio and CBSNewYork.com.

CBS is definitely planting a flag on the Island. Consumers of local news stand to benefit.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net