Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pappas's Channel 42 closer to auction block

Central Valley broadcast titan Henry Pappas may have to put 10 of his TV stations, including the Bay Area's KTNC Channel 42, up for bankruptcy auction next week. A federal bankruptcy judge has signed off on the procedures to sell the assets owned by Pappas Telecasting Companies, according to the Fresno Bee.

The only way any of the stations would not go on the auction block is if at least two qualified buyers submit bids by Thursday(Dec. 4), according to the Bee. If no buyers come forward, the auction would be held Dec. 11. Approval of any auction sales would be Dec. 16 at a U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware.

The stations are (with city of license in parenthseis):
    KMPH-TV Fresno-Visalia CA (Visalia CA), Fox

    KFRE-TV Fresno-Visalia CA (Sanger CA), CW

    KTNC-TV San Francisco-Oakland CA (Concord CA), TuVision

    KUNO-TV San Francisco-Oakland CA (Fort Bragg CA), TuVision

    KCWK-TV Yakima-Pasco-Richland WA (Walla Walla WA), CW

    KAZH-TV Houston TX (Baytown TX), TuVision

    KDBC-TV El Paso TX, CBS

    KPTM-TV Omaha NE, Fox

    KPTH-TV Sioux City IA, Fox

    WCWG-TV Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem NC (Lexington NC), CW
The bankruptcy doesn't involve the Pappas family's KTRB-AM, a 50,000-watt station in San Francisco.

Marc Berman, senior television writer for Mediaweek, a national publication that covers the television industry, said he doesn't expect buyers to be standing in line to bid on the television stations. And if there are any buyers, they will be looking for a great deal.

"Because of the way the economy is, it will be bargain-basement offers. I don't think people will be throwing money at television stations right now," Berman told the Fresno newspaper.

4 comments:

Don Moore said...

It's a shame to see a great company fall like this; but Mr. Pappas made some bad personnel decisions that gave him short-term gains. In the long-run; he lost. He lost more than these 10 stations. He lost a lot of good will from loyal employees, who believed in his vision.

He's still got several smaller market television stations and if he remains healthy (personally); he will rebound.

The problem with the stations they are selling is that they are all Fixer-Uppers. They squandered millions of dollars on new High Definition technologies that they could not justify based on HD coverage and could not operate since Pappas did not have consider technical staff (Master Control Operators) as career positions. Don't expect Minimum Wage Staff to be able to operate Million Dollar Computer Systems. (There were cheaper and easier to operate systems that were not considered because those vendors didn't wine and dine the "right" people at Pappas.)

Alan Kline said...

In fairness to Pappas, his company is hardly the only one which doesn't consider technical/production staff as worthy of being considered career positions. That's all too common across the industry these days.

Having said that, I'm still amazed that Pappas managed to do with KTNC what the original ownership (Ronn Haus' Christian group) never could--drag it into bankruptcy. I worked for the station in its KFCB days, and while things were always tight financially, I never heard the word "bankruptcy" mentioned seriously.

I don't know enough about the current state of KTNC's plant to decide if the "fixer-upper" tag is justified. If the analog transmitter is still the original RCA, it is--but of course, that rig would only have about 10 more weeks to live, so it's a non-issue. However, the station's greatest asset has always been the transmitter site on Mt. Diablo. Under the right management, an HD signal from that location could be reasonably profitable. Maybe, after 25 years, the station may finally get that management.

Anonymous said...

"Great company..." "Fairness to Pappas..." Obviously you folks did not have to deal with the day-to-day nonsense his operations generated.

As the saying goes, "Harry J. never met a penny he didn't like." The man was ruthless on ways to save a buck...all to the determint of the final on-air product.

His operation in Fresno was the cash cow of the system. But, except for building a new studio in the 1990's, it was near impossible to acquire anything (even paper clips) that made the job easier.

For instance, photographers were always hired at minimum wage, meaning they were people who likely had never been in a TV station, much less worked in news. The end result, awful pictures on the air. Equipment was always garbage he bought from the lowest bidder. Often it didn't work even if it was brand new. Of course, Harry didn't have to deal with it.

He was famous for always having trade agreements through his sales department. The end result, we had to buy gasoline as some obscure gas station across town because they had ads on the air. If they were closed, the news trucks ran out of gas. Great way to run a news department.

I lost track at how many bills went unpaid. Managers would tell me how bills would only be paid when the vendors threatened action. What a great way to maintain a business relationship.

And this doesn't speak to Harry's quirky way of dealing with employees. He was well known for his off-the-wall ways at firing people. You want stories? Talk to any long time employee at KMPH. They have a million of 'em.

C'mon, folks. Harry might have been a great salesman. And he always seemed to have a great sales staff. But, his companies were some of the most shoddy operations in the broadcast industry. Even after years and years and years running broadcast stations, he continued to shoot himself in the foot when it came to the nuts and bolts of actually producing product.

Maybe some in the business world of broadcasting revere him, which may be why was "inducted" into the Hall of Fame. But, on the news and journalism side of the business, he is absolutely, positively despised!

Alan Kline said...

I was hardly defending Pappas--simply pointing out that his alleged mistreatment of employees is hardly unique in the industry.

Sure, I've heard the stories of Pappas' operations. Heard them secondhand, because I've always kept as far from those stations as possible.

About 15 years ago, I was involved in a bit of a debate with the operations supervisor of a Pappas station, in the pages of a trade journal. She felt that it was important for MCR operators to come to work wearing dress shirt, slacks, shoes, and tie--even in off-hours and in inclement weather. She felt that was more important than safety footwear for a technician who might have to climb onto a satellite dish to sweep snow out. That said all I ever needed to hear about the Pappas attitude, and I never for a moment considered employment at any Pappas station.

I see now that my decision was well-founded.