CHAMPAIGN – Weekend newscasts on WICD-TV in Champaign will originate from Springfield, beginning March 26.
WICD and its sister station, WICS in Springfield, will begin sharing weekend newscasts that day, said Tim Mathis, general manager of the two stations.
As a result of the change, three full-time positions at the Champaign station are being eliminated. Those include weekend news anchor, weekend weathercaster and an open reporting position. The station is also eliminating a part-time producer position, Mathis said.
Beginning March 26, the weekend newscast will be anchored by Liz Foster. Danny Russell will give weather reports and Andrew Hansen will provide sports on an interim basis. All three work for WICS, though Russell occasionally appears on WICD.
Mathis said reporters at WICD will continue to contribute to the broadcast.
"We will continue to have a full staff in Champaign to gather content for the Champaign-Urbana/Danville side of the market, and that material will be used to produce a balanced newscast that will be aired marketwide," Mathis said.
"The only thing that's changing is, the anchors will be out of Springfield," he added.
As a result, viewers will no longer see weekend anchor Ben Handelman and weather anchor/reporter Brittney Sager.
When asked what prompted the change, Mathis said, "There are a number of investments we need to make in the station, not the least of which is high-definition. We need to improve the profitability of the TV station in order for it to be successful."
Mathis would not disclose how much is expected to be saved by the move.
When asked whether the two stations may eventually share newscasts on weekdays, Mathis said, "That is not our plan. We just don't have any intention of doing that."
WICD and WICS serve the east and west sides, respectively, of the Champaign-Decatur-Springfield market. Both stations are owned by Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Mathis said the two stations haven't had "a joint marketwide product" in several years. He said he believed the last such shared broadcast was a 5 p.m. Monday-through-Friday newscast that originated from Springfield.
Sinclair owns, operates, programs or provides sales services to 58 TV stations in 35 markets.
Last month, the company reported big turnarounds in quarterly and yearly results. Sinclair made $76.1 million in profits in 2010, compared with a $135.7 million loss in 2009.
Record levels of political advertising in the fourth quarter of 2010 and ramped-up spending by the automotive industry helped lift results.
In a quarterly report filed Feb. 9 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sinclair mentioned changes in newscast arrangements in two of its markets.
One was in St. Louis, where Sinclair's ABC affiliate, KDNL, arranged for the local NBC affiliate to produce an early-evening and late-evening newscast for it.
The other was in Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C., where Sinclair's ABC affiliate will get a 6:30 a.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscast Monday through Friday from Time Warner Cable, beginning in 2012.