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College dean discusses plans for Channel 32

POSTED: October 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/ The Times

Culpepper Clark, Dean of the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, chats over lunch at the Gainesville Civic Center prior to his Gainesville Rotary Club speech Monday afternoon. Clark spoke of the University's recent acquisition of a Toccoa-based television station and the plans for it's future.

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The dean of the journalism school at the University of Georgia said Monday that the college is about to enter a new era with its purchase of WNEG-TV, Channel 32.

Culpepper Clark, dean of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, told the Rotary Club of Gainesville that UGA would take possession of the station on Oct. 15.

"We will lose the affiliation with CBS, but we will gain an affiliation with UGA," Clark said. The station has affiliated with the America One network and will also have a package of movies from the library of MGM.

Clark refers to the acquisition as buying a license.

"We're not acquiring a television station to run a television station," Clark said. "We're acquiring a license to do something the University of Georgia has never been able to do, and that is work with media, through media to develop local content that succeeds."

The college is also working with the Gainesville-based North Georgia Community Foundation in seeking a grant from the Knight Foundation.

The grant is to "build the journalism assets of the community," Clark said.

He said the model for the television station is based on the same model used years ago for the university's agricultural experiment stations.

"We'll build a network, but it is a network grounded in the local," he said. "It is an opportunity to work with and through all our media partners in this area."

He said the station will eventually have a full compliment of local programing.

"Does that mean we keep the Billy Dillworth Show? You bet we do," he said.

Dillworth, a radio host and newspaper columnist has been a fixture on WNEG since it signed on the air.

The station is licensed to Toccoa, but is on cable systems and satellite throughout Northeast Georgia. Clark said the primary studios will move to Athens sometime next year, but there will remain a presence in Toccoa. The station, which bills itself as service Toccoa, Athens and Gainesville will be focused on those cities and the surrounding areas. He stressed that the station would not be a public television station.

Some colleges have gotten out of the commercial television business, such as Notre Dame University, which sold its station WNDU in 2006.

The most successful commercial college owned station is KOMU, an NBC affiliate owned by the University of Missouri in Columbia.

While UGA has not disclosed how much it paid for WNEG, Clark told Rotarians he was rebuffed when he approached Media General, the current owners, about donating the station to the university.

The University of Georgia Research Foundation entered a bid for the station when Media General placed five stations on the market in an auction conducted through Bank of America.

WNEG was acquired in 2000 by Media General in its purchase of Spartan Communications of Spartanburg, S.C.

 

 



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