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Week of 14 May 1999

Vol. II, No. 34

Feature Article

BU changes the channel on WABU

Boston University announced the sale of WABU-TV, Channel 68, and its two other television stations to DP Media of Boston, Inc., on May 4. DP Media is an affiliate of the Pax TV network, which is known for its family-oriented programming. (The current lineup lists such shows as Touched by an Angel, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and Father Dowling Mysteries.) No price was disclosed, and the sale is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission. The buyer will begin operating the stations under a time brokerage agreement in early June.

BU bought WABU (then called WQTV) in June 1993 from Monitor Television, Inc., part of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, for $3.8 million. A short time later, the University purchased two other stations, WZBU-TV of Vineyard Haven and WNBU-TV of Concord, N.H.

"We bought these stations when the economy was weak and the television industry was facing an uncertain future," says Joseph Mercurio, executive vice president of BU. "Our goal was to develop a station that would include locally produced programs that offered intelligent discussion and insight on important issues. We also wanted to provide internship opportunities for our students."

Mercurio explains that although WABU succeeded in those aims, changes in the marketplace cast ownership of an independent local station in a new light, even as numerous prospective buyers began to approach the University. "The opportunity presented by DP Media, coupled with continuous rapid evolution in the broadcasting industry, makes this a perfect time for the University to sell the stations," he says.

Robert Gordon, station president and general manager, and his staff took the former Monitor station and added a new line of local programs, including Business World, with Jim Howell, Doctors on Call, with Odysseus Argy, ECU, with Gail Harris, Consider This, with Harris and Ted O'Brien, and Adler on Line, with Charles Adler. The station also developed two children's programs, Story Shop and Li'l Iguana. Sports coverage included BU hockey, the Red Sox, and the Celtics.

"We faced an enormous task," says Gordon. "We needed to gain recognition and build an audience in a crowded market, and we did just that."

Under the terms of the sale, the station will continue to provide student internships and will carry some University programming, including Terrier hockey.

"We think the programming offered by Pax Net will satisfy many of those who have come to enjoy Channel 68," says Mercurio.