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December 10, 1993 - Image 49

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-12-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Profile

Alan

Frank

made

WDIV

a long-

term

project,

and

turned

it into

No. 1.

Station Builder

ALICE BURDICK SCHWEIGER

SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

lan Frank has made a differ-
ence. When he began as pro-
gram manager at WDIV
(Channel 4) nearly 15
years ago, the station was
floundering. But within
six months of his taking
the job, the ratings
had started to climb.
By the time he was promoted
to vice president and general
manager in 1988, the ratings
had soared.
During the past May ratings
period, Channel 4 emerged as
a top-rated local station, in-
creasing several points from the
same period last year. And the
local NewsBeat at 5 p.m. and
11 p.m. nabbed the No. 1 spot.
"When I came here, this was
a station that was very dam-
aged," Mr. Frank said from his
downtown Detroit office. "It was
known as a racist and sexist
station that ranked fourth or
fifth. I wanted to change the
perception and culture, and I
think we did. But it didn't hap-
pen overnight — it took a lot of
time, energy and attention to
detail."

According to Mr. Frank,
WDIV was a station that did
not draw young people, and he
wanted to capture the attention
of young and old alike.
"We wanted to maintain high
journalistic standards and yet
reach a broader audience," he
recalled. "Major changes were
made in our programming
schedule, and the "Go-4-It" cam-
paign, which showed images of
people achieving all sorts of
things, was initiated. We tried
to get out the message that De-
troit is a great place to be. We
also put people on the air who
were representative of the com-
munity."
Revamping the nightly news
was part of the overhaul, as was
creating a format different from
other stations. "We introduced
a different way of opening the
newscast — a new look. The ac-
tual big story is now mentioned
in a minute-and-a-half at the
front. We are much more live
than before and we shoot all of
our promotions ourselves."
In trying to enlighten the au-
thence about controversial and

pressing issues, Mr. Frank has
tackled subjects such as safe
sex, AIDS and substance abuse.
He has also touched on several
mental health issues, airing
special segments on depression
and how to cope with anger.
'e have saved people's lives
with some of our medical tips
and precautionary measures in
case of tornadoes," said Mr.

Not all of his
decisions are
popular with the
audience.

Frank, who credits the entire
staff for innovative ideas.
At the end of April, when the
Detroit Jewish community sent
almost 1,300 people to Israel
on the Miracle Mission, Chan-
nel 4 was the only station to
send a crew to cover it.
"We sent Ruth Spencer, one
of our anchors," he said. "It was
very good publicity."

Still, not all of Mr. Frank's
decisions are popular with his
audience. As the one who is ul-
timately responsible for pre-
empting a show, he has
infuriated many viewers.
"I am committed to local
broadcasting, and if there is an
important local news-breaking
story, I will cut into whatever
is being aired at the time," said
Mr. Frank, who takes the pub-
lic's input and feedback very se-
riously. "Sometimes I will
knock off a popular scheduled
show in order to run something
else, knowing that there will al-
ways be someone who is upset."
The pollsters are not the only
ones tracking WDIV's viewer-
ship. Advertisers, too, keep tabs
on how well the station fares.
Although even the most savvy
advertisers cannot predict
which spot will succeed, they
prefer to sell their products on
a surefire hit.
"No one wants to buy a pro-
gram that is not going to last
very long," Mr. Frank admit-
ted, "although some of our ad-
vertisers will pay anything
from $50 on a low-rated late
night show, to $30,000 and up
for a 30-second spot during the
Super Bowl.
While "Jeopardy" and
"Wheel of Fortune" are the
highest rated daily shows,
"Frasier," "Fresh Prince of Bel-
Air," "Blossom" and "Sienfeld"
are among the the most
watched weekly NBC prime-
time programs.
Channel 4's popular local
broadcasts include the new "Ed
and Brooks" show, "Builder's
Open House," "Due Process,"
the Tiger baseball games,
"Thanksgiving Day Parade,"
"International Freedom Fes-
tival Fireworks," and "Michi-
gan Lottery Megabucks
Giveaway."
"One of our highest rated
shows ever was the musical Te-
ter and the Wolf,' which we will
repeat again this Christmas,"
he added.
Does Mr. Frank watch other
networks? "Of course," he an-
swered with a smile, pointing
to a row of television sets lined
up against his office wall. "I am
curious about what other sta-
tions are putting on the air, but
it has no influence over what
I decide to do. We only pay
attention to our viewers. and
our advertisers."
In more than two decades
working on the production side
of the entertainment business,
Mr. Frank has seen a lot of
changes.
"Over the years, the adver-
tisers have changed a lot, and
it's tougher to do business than
ever before. The loyalty factors
are a lot less. It used to be that
stations had long-term rela-

FRANK page 50

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