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Sunday, March 12, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The CBS Switch -- Questions, Answers On Tomorrow's Big Move

Tomorrow at 6:30 a.m., after 37 years on KIRO-TV, the CBS Television Network moves to KSTW-TV, which long has been an independent station.

In simplest terms, national CBS programming is moving from Channel 7 to Channel 11 in Seattle. But there are many other implications, and the reason for the change is complicated.

Q. Is this really such a big deal?

A. It is if you watch any programs on channels 7 or 11.

In addition to the move of CBS shows from KIRO to KSTW, some syndicated, non-network programs carried by Channel 11 are moving to Channel 7 or to KTZZ-TV (Channel 22) - or they are disappearing from the Seattle airwaves altogether, at least until another station decides to carry them.

Many syndicated shows will be unaffected or will get new time slots on the same channel. Check TV Times or the daily TV listings in the Scene section. Or for more information from the stations themselves, call KIRO-TV at 728-8555 or 1-800-284-KIRO; or KSTW-TV at 1-800-CBS-ON11.

If you think this switch is complicated, consider the poor viewers in Phoenix, where four stations recently changed network affiliation.

Q. Do I need to make any technical changes to my TV, VCR, VCR Plus or cable hook-up?

A. No. But you need to remember to look in new places for your favorite shows.

For example, when programming your VCR, remember to record Channel 11 instead of Channel 7 to tape CBS shows - starting tomorrow.

On cable systems, Channel 7 will stay on 7 and Channel 11 will stay on 11.

VCR Plus users need to reconfigure the system's channel mapping, assigning CBS to Channel 11 and the United Paramount Network (UPN) to Channel 7.

Q. What happens to the local personalities on the two stations?

A. Local journalists and hosts stay where they are. But since both KIRO and KSTW are enlarging their news departments, there are going to be some new faces in addition to the familiar ones.

Q. Besides channels 7 and 11, are any other stations affected by these changes?

A. No. But ABC affiliate KOMO-TV (Channel 4) and NBC affiliate KING-TV (Channel 5) hope to benefit from the fact they aren't changing.

Q. What will KIRO-TV be running in prime time to replace the CBS shows?

A. Monday and Tuesday nights, KIRO will broadcast programming from United Paramount Network (UPN). Other nights of the week, KIRO will air syndicated dramas and movies.

Q. Will the CBS schedule change when the network moves to Channel 11?

A. For the most part, no. The "CBS Evening News" will move from 6 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. And some CBS shows KIRO never carried - "The Bold and the Beautiful," "CBS Morning News" and "Tom Snyder" - already have a home on KSTW.

Q. What happens to the Seattle Mariners and Seattle SuperSonics games carried by KSTW-TV?

A. Since local sports broadcasts are problematic for network affiliates - network programming often gets interrupted for night games - KSTW gave the Seattle Mariners permission to seek a new contract with another station. KIRO will now carry Mariners games.

There is another season left in the contract between the Seattle SuperSonics and KSTW, which plans to carry basketball again next year.

Q. I can't find "Star Trek: Voyager" and other United Paramount Network shows. What gives?

A. KIRO began airing programs from UPN in January. The two-night-a-week schedule is intended for Monday and Tuesday nights, but since KIRO's obligation to carry CBS didn't end until tomorrow, it has had to air UPN programs as the schedule allows - usually at odd hours on weekends. Starting tomorrow, those UPN programs will air between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, as they do nationally. "Voyager" airs at 8 p.m. on Monday.

Q. What will Channel 7 do without CBS News?

A. The station's new owner, A.H. Belo Corp., is known for solid local news in other markets, and KIRO is adding three hours of news a day to its lineup to compensate for the loss of CBS. The station tomorrow will launch a new 7-to-9 a.m. show, "7 Live," and will add an hour of news nightly at 10.

Since KIRO subscribes to the services of Cable News Network, you likely will continue to see plenty of national and world news on KIRO.

Belo believes good journalism is good business, and it hopes to build KIRO into an authoritative news station, even without CBS.

Q. What does this mean for KSTW-TV?

A. It's an enormous boost. While TV viewers these days have a wide variety of programming choices, the "Big Three" networks still draw the biggest audiences. Network affiliation means more exposure for the local commercials aired on KSTW - and increased revenue. CBS is kicking in a lot of money to help promote the network's new home.

Affiliation brings certain expectations for local news. KSTW is beefing up its news department. At first, Channel 11 will air news at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Within a year KSTW hopes to have a morning local newscast, news at noon and a half hour of local news at 5 p.m.

Q. Is this the first time a network has changed affiliates in Seattle?

A. No. In fact, this change completes a circle. When KIRO first went on the air in 1958, it wrestled away the CBS affiliation from Channel 11, which then was called KTNT. Legal action ensued and from 1960 to 1962, both stations were CBS affiliates. Since 1962, Channel 11 has been an independent.

Q. What is a television network?

A. It's a program provider. Through business arrangements with local broadcast stations, a network delivers a lineup of programs seen nationally.

Q. How many networks are there?

A. Seven prominent ones, although there are regulatory definitions that exclude some from network status in the eye of the government.

ABC, CBS and NBC are the Big Three. They've been around since the dawn of television, and for many years they had no competition. Fox, an upstart launched in 1986, has matured and is challenging the Big Three in many ways.

This year, two new networks signed on with very modest program schedules. They are the United Paramount Network (UPN) and the WB Television Network (WB).

PBS is the nonprofit service providing programming that is mostly commercial-free.

Q. What is a network affiliate?

A. A local station that agrees to carry a network's programming. Usually, commercial networks compensate the local station for carrying the programs and for carrying the national advertisements from which the network makes money. Affiliates also get to run their own advertising during special slots set aside for local commercials during network shows.

Q. Do the networks own the local stations?

A. In some cases. But none of the Seattle stations is owned by a network.

Q. What is an "independent" station?

A. A local broadcast station that has no network affiliation. Usually such stations fill their schedule with syndicated programs purchased a la carte - often old episodes of former network programs. Increasingly, syndicated fare is original programming produced without network backing.

Q. Why is CBS changing stations here?

A. It's a long story, but the CBS switch comes down to rough-and-tumble business.

Last year, Fox bought a share of New World Communications, which owns a dozen local TV stations. As part of the deal, New World agreed to change all its stations' affiliations to Fox. (Network-affiliation agreements have escape clauses.)

Suddenly, CBS was soon to be without eight affiliates, many of them in major markets. It scrambled to sign replacement stations. That set into motion dozens of affiliation changes nationwide. By one count, 72 television stations will have switched or lost networks within about a year. It's estimated that a third of TV viewers in the country are affected by such changes.

The move of CBS to KSTW has its roots in Dallas-Fort Worth, one of the last markets where CBS secured a replacement affiliate. Gaylord Entertainment Co. owns an independent station there, which seemed to be the only option CBS had. Other Dallas stations were already committed to other networks. Gaylord held all the cards.

While agreeing to make its Dallas station a CBS affiliate, Gaylord demanded that KSTW, which it also owns, be a CBS station, too.

Since CBS desperately needed Gaylord's station in Dallas, the network agreed to make the change in Seattle. In September, CBS gave affiliate KIRO six months' termination notice.

Q. Wasn't KIRO-TV recently sold? Is that related to this network change?

A. Indirectly. The sale of KIRO-TV and the CBS switch were announced the same week in September, but the two developments are not formally linked.

KIRO's previous owner, the Mormon Church's Bonneville Holding Corp. of Salt Lake City, sensed last summer that Channel 7 would lose CBS. The company's management had had enough of the hardball TV business, so they decided to sell the station for $162.5 million to A.H. Belo Corp. of Dallas. The deal closed just a few weeks ago.

-------------------------------------------- SEATTLE-TACOMA BROADCAST TELEVISION STATIONS --------------------------------------------

While tomorrow is the day all CBS programming moves to KSTW-TV (Channel 11), the station has been broadcasting a few CBS programs for weeks or months. Similarly, KIRO-TV (Channel 7), which loses CBS tomorrow, has been showing programs from its new network, UPN, since January. There are no planned network changes at any of the other stations.

Channel: 4.

Station: KOMO-TV.

Owner: Fisher Broadcasting Co.

Present network: American Broadcasting Co. (ABC)

New network: No change.

Channel: 5.

Station: KING-TV.

Owner: King Broadcasting Co. (Providence Journal Co.)

Present network: National Broadcasting Co. (NBC)

New network: No change.

Channel: 7.

Station: KIRO-TV.

Owner: A.H. Belo Corp.

Present network: CBS Television Network (CBS)

New network: United Paramount Network (UPN)

Channel: 9.

Station: KCTS-TV.

Owner: KCTS Television (nonprofit)

Present network: Public Broadcasting System (PBS)

New network: No change.

Channel: 11.

Station: KSTW-TV.

Owner: Gaylord Entertainment Co.

Present network: None.

New network: CBS Television Network (CBS)

Channel: 13.

Station: KCPQ-TV.

Owner: Kelly Television Co.

Present network: Fox Broadcasting Co.

New network: No change.

Channel: 22.

Station: KTZZ-TV.

Owner: Dudley Communications Inc.

Present network: The WB Television Network (WB)

New network: No change.

Channel: 28.

Station: KBTC-TV.

Owner: Washington State Board for Community and

Technical Colleges.

Present network: Public Broadcasting System (PBS)

New network: No change.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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