Start of 4th Quarter . . .
Our efforts to reach the budgeted revenue figures in 1977 and 1978 have been seriously hampered by the untimely departure of our salesmen, just after the budgets were approved.
In November 1976, Bill Wilson resigned, leaving the comparatively ineffective John Manning to try to make all the sales himself. The green line on the graph, indicating actual revenue, falls dramatically in January 1977. Although there are recoveries for the wrestling tournament in March and the football season in September and October, the green line that year never approaches the red line, representing budgeted revenue.
In September 1977, John Manning left. We had no salesman at all for nearly six months thereafter. When we first drew up the 1978 budget, we had been rather pessimistic about Manning's abilities and had projected the revenue figures shown by the broken line on the graph; but we found that to get the budget approved, it was necessary to project the much higher figures shown by the solid red line. Unfortunately, as fiscal 1978 began, we found that, without a salesman, even our preliminary figures were not pessimistic enough.
We finally reached 50% of budgeted revenue in March 1978, with the help of the annual wrestling tournament. And late that month, we once again acquired a salesman as Lee Rizor joined the team. Revenues at once began a steady climb, rising well above the pessimistic preliminary figures toward the solid red line of the actual budget. The historic point was reached in June 1978: billing figures just released at this writing show $2,387, while the budget calls for $2,300. For the first time in years, revenues have actually exceeded the budget.
From this point on, the green line shows our predictions for total revenue through fiscal 1979. We believe that these predictions are reasonable and attainable. Here are some examples: high school and college football games $3,880, wrestling tournament $2,000, youth baseball $1,600.
We arrive at a bottom line for the 1979 budget: an average operating loss of $863 per month. This, we feel, is a substantial improvement. It's only 53% of the actual operating loss during the first seven months of 1978. It's also 13% below the figure approved for the 1978 budget as an operating loss; and with a competent salesman this year, we're much more likely to reach our budget.
HIGHLIGHTS OF 1978 PROGRAMS
Each week, I typed up a "Cable TV-3 Program Schedule." One copy went to the local newspaper, the Washington Observer-Reporter, while we used another as a master guide for preparing promos and program logs.
Here are a few dozen 1978 listings. All times are "PM."
March 31, 1979
And there's another way in which he was one in a million. He was one of a million Americans who will die in 1979 from heart and blood vessel diseases.
More than forty million Americans are afflicted with cardiovascular diseases. These diseases, including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, congenital defects, rheumatic heart disease, and congestive heart failure, kill more of us than all other causes combined.
The 40,000 physicians and 88,000 others who make up the American Heart Association have joined together to try to solve the problems posed by the cardiovascular diseases . . . through research, professional and public education, and community programs. For this work, the American Heart Association needs to raise funds.
And it's for this reason that the Heart Association in Washington County has brought us here tonight to Trinity High School, only 30 hours after Jack Seibel's death. Yes, it's for a very important reason that we're here for a night of entertainment: the second annual Heart Fund Alumni Wrestling Match.
Forty-five wrestlers, who have been out of high school for an average of eight years, will return here tonight to take part in 23 exhibition bouts all to help the Heart Fund to help us in staying alive. The co-chairmen of this event, Sil Passalacqua and Ron Junko, will describe the action for you here on Cable TV-3, along with me, Tom Thomas.
This special event is brought to you by First Federal Savings and Loan of Washington. The Coen Oil Company. And First Federal Savings and Loan of Carnegie. Each of our sponsors has also pledged 25 dollars to the Heart Fund, in conjunction with their sponsorship of this cablecast.
The wrestling action will get under way right after this.
April 8, 1979
For Cable TV-3's annual trip to the Pennsylvania high-school wrestling tournament, which was held this year in Hershey at the Hersheypark Arena, we stayed at the east edge of Harrisburg. Nothing unusual happened during the four days we were there; but ten days after we left, there was the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, and soon evacuees were being housed at the Arena.
One of Cable TV-3's pre-election programs put Washington Channels on the front page of the Washington, PA, Observer-Reporter on both May 7 and May 8.
Voters on May 15 were to decide whether the city of Washington could replace some of its paid firemen with volunteers. The city administration was in favor of the move, but the fire department naturally was opposed.
Cable TV-3 invited both sides to appear on a live program from the Washington Channels studio, and viewers were invited to phone in questions. This was only one of eight live programs on Cable TV-3 previewing candidates and issues in the May primary.
The program ran an hour and a half. It turned out to be the only public confrontation between the two sides. The top of the local newspaper's front page the following day was devoted to the story of the debate, including three pictures.
June 18, 1979
We have one channel for local origination and access, Channel 3. We're currently averaging about 24 hours per week of programs, the remaining 144 hours being an automated data-and-weather service.
We have never had a formal request for "public access," per se. This is probably due to a lack of activist sophistication in this city; groups are mostly unaware of the intricacies of FCC rulings. However, we do get maybe one request per week from groups who "would like to be on TV," as they put it. Almost all of these are scheduled for a 15-minute segment of our weekly half-hour local talk show, "About Washington." If we don't have enough volunteers, we recruit guests to fill out the program.
So far in 1979, the "About Washington" guests have included two Mormon missionaries, a group of disgruntled housing-project tenants, an educator recruiting for the public vocational school, a Rotarian just returned from Korea, an IRS man with tax tips, drama students publicizing their play at the local college, a Bell Telephone spokesman explaining phone-book snafus, the Heart Fund publicizing their fund-raising events . . . well, that's only the list for January, but you get the idea.
Other programming done locally includes sports coverage, which annually amounts to 14 football games, six basketball games, six wrestling matches plus the state tournament, 12 Pony baseball games, miscellaneous other events, and two weekly sports talk shows.
In addition, some of our sponsors make it possible for us to carry some syndicated programming. At the moment, a local savings and loan is sponsoring the Paul Gaudino exercise program taped in Clarion, Pennsylvania, and a local church is sponsoring two weekly religious half-hours for children.
July 19, 1979
We're mailing our "Meet the Candidates" invitations early because of a policy change.
Prior to the May primary, we invited opposed candidates to appear live on a certain night. Those who said they couldn't make it, but who asked to pre-tape an interview instead, were allowed to do so.
But we had some complaints that this might be unfair. A pre-taped candidate didn't have to field live questions from viewers, and he could appear that night not only on TV but also elsewhere in person. And these advantages were available only to those who requested them.
Therefore, we will no longer pre-tape any segments. The "Meet the Candidates" programs leading up to the November election will be completely live. To insure that all candidates can attend if they want to, we're mailing the invitations three months in advance so that you can arrange your schedule accordingly.
July 29, 1979
On a recent program at Cable TV-3, we interviewed some women from the La Leche League who were promoting breastfeeding as well as membership in their group. For one thing, they said, breastfeeding leads to a better psychological bond between mother and infant.
The host of the program, Jerry Polen a brasher person that myself said, "Yes, but what about the bond between father and infant? The father of a bottle baby would occasionally get to feed the baby himself, but if you're breastfeeding, he's entirely left out of this bonding.
"And is breastfeeding hygienic enough? Those who use bottles always sterilize them before use. You women don't take baths in boiling water before every feeding, do you?"
Well, how about it? Some serious questions were raised there by our Cable TV-3 interviewer. Perhaps the whole subject needs to be reinvestigated.
September 14, 1979
Our "Shotgun Sampler" gives you sixty 15-second spots over a thirteen-week period. These spots will consist of a single slide and 15 seconds of copy. Rather than being concentrated in one program, they'll be distributed throughout our Cable TV-3 program schedule, so you'll be able to reach all our viewers. The cost is only $150.
[This package was not aimed at big spenders: it works out to two and a half bucks per commercial and $11.54 per week. We were trying everything at this point.]
November 12, 1979
In the past few weeks, a number of groups have approached Cable TV-3 with proposals for program series for which they would either pay Washington Channels or provide sponsors who would pay. This shows a growing interest in the community for the services which Cable TV-3 can provide, plus a growing opportunity for the local origination channel to earn revenue providing that the equipment is in operating condition.
(1) The Meadows, the local harness racing track, asked for a price on a weekly half-hour to be done partly live in the studio. The program would also include a race of the week and a behind-the-scenes feature, both taped at the track. We quoted a price of $500 per week.
(2) Dr. H. H. McConnell, pastor of one of the city's largest churches (the Church of the Covenant, Presbyterian), asked us to video-tape the 11:00 am service at the Church each Sunday and show it later in the day on Cable TV-3. We quoted a price of $175 per week.
(3) Danny Warbutton, who owns and operates a local gymnastics academy, asked us if we could produce a monthly or bi-monthly program featuring his students, as we get closer to the 1980 Olympics. Mr. Warbutton would either pay for the series himself or (more likely) recruit sponsors for it from his contacts.
(4) Syl Wrubleski, a local resident who has appeared on some of our "Government Report" programs, suggested a four-week series of football nostalgia, in which he would talk to former local coaches. He found three sponsors for the series (total $300) and is working on a fourth. The series, "Remember Football When," is now being cablecast and obviously has viewers, from the number of phone calls received during the premiere.
March 9, 1980
This coming Wednesday, three other people and I will be heading to Hershey for the annual state high-school wrestling tournament. That's always the big event in Cable TV-3's year. It costs us about a thousand dollars to videotape the local wrestlers in action, but we get over two thousand in advertising revenue, so it's well worth it.
Friday, April 18, 1980
This will be the final week of programming on Cable TV-3. The "data channel" service will continue, but programs will be presented infrequently if at all.
Washington Channels began local program origination in 1971 after the Federal Communications Commission ordered that all cable systems with 3,500 or more subscribers had to do so. This placed a financial burden on cable systems across the country, which they were unable to recover through advertisers and sponsors, so in 1975 the FCC withdrew the order. But in Washington, we continued to operate local program origination, because we felt it was a service our subscribers wanted and we hoped we would be able to attain income at least to cover our operating costs.
Five years later, Cable TV-3 is still operating at a deficit. The equipment now needs to be replaced, and Washington Channels cannot justify the capital expenditure to do so. Therefore, the remaining Cable TV-3 staff of two people will be laid off after the end of programming on April 24.
Washington Channels deeply regrets this decision, but it is purely and simply a matter of economics.
December 14, 1980
This is my first letter to you in quite a while, a fact that is mostly attributable to the circumstance (which you may have guessed from my changed address) that I, too, have changed jobs.
It was back in April that the management at Washington Channels decided that the losses had gone on long enough. We were either going to have to shut down our local programs or continue them with one person, me, doing all the work. I thought at first that I would continue, but after thinking it over I decided that it would not be much fun. For example, I'm not a very good salesman, tending to be too honest in pointing out our product's shortcomings and too willing to accept a "no" without argument.
So on April 25, I began what turned out to be four months of unemployment. I found it to be not at all unpleasant. Mr. Reagan was partly right in describing unemployment compensation as a paid vacation plan; between the $126 per week unemployment, other income from interest and stock dividends, and low expenses, I actually was able to put a little money into my savings account during this period. (That money and a lot more came out of savings, however, when it became time to move to a new city.)
Seeking a Job
In looking for a new job, naturally I looked at cable TV program positions, but there weren't many available. I wasn't sure I wanted to stay in the same field, anyway. I was still doing essentially the same things after ten years in the business, and the two companies I had worked for had both eventually shut down their program operations.
I had enjoyed teaching the studio-operations part of a winter term course in TV production that was taught at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, so I asked the chairman of the education department at W&J (Chuck Ream, who was also a sports commentator for us) whether he thought I might be qualified to be a college instructor. He did, so I applied at several schools and was interviewed at one, little Salem College in West Virginia.
Having come from Oberlin, I was somewhat surprised that Salem was so desperate for enrollment that they made very little attempt to provide a "liberal arts" education; all their courses were aimed at job skills. So I would not have been giving students a feel for the overall broadcast industry so much as training them to be disk jockeys. I wasn't sure this was what I wanted, but it turned out that I didn't have to make that decision because Salem never called me back.
I also went to Oberlin in June to interview for the position of assistant executive director of the Alumni Association. That too went to someone else; judging from the article in the alumni magazine, he is better suited to the position than I would have been.
Finding a Job
Finally, it happened that I brought myself to the attention of a company called Total Communications Systems just at the time when they needed a program director for their local cable station, TV3 in New Kensington, Pennsylvania (northeast of Pittsburgh).
Here we go again. I had been program director of TV3 in Marion, Ohio. I had been program director of TV3 in Washington, Pennsylvania. It sounds like I'm being typecast.
TCS seemed very interested in me and offered me the job, and since job offers were not coming in very often, I accepted.
This situation, however, is not exactly like the first two TV3's. Those were both run by cable companies. This TV3 is run by TCS and uses a channel that TCS leases from the local cable company, Westmoreland Cable. It happens that Westmoreland has about 24,000 subscribers, so this TV3 can be seen by three times as many people as the earlier TV3's.
Most important, TCS is involved in many other activities, and all the employees are encouraged to split their time among several of the divisions. TCS operates two radio stations in New Kensington, produces the telecasts of Penn State football and basketball, Ohio State basketball, and Pennsylvania high school championships, and is starting a new regional pay-cable service called Action TV. I have daily contact with people working in all these areas.
Although my main work is with TV3, I am being phased into the college-sports area too. They're considering sending me to California to learn computer-assisted videotape editing next spring, which could mean I would be one of only two people in the company who would really know how to operate a rather valuable piece of equipment. And a year from now, I could be working part of the time out of TCS's new van [mobile production unit] for remote telecasts.
are a lot of possibilities ahead.