The locally owned Austin Radio Network is launching a news department this week led by well-known Austin broadcaster Dick Ellis, who spent 32 years anchoring TV newscasts on ABC affiliate KVUE and Fox-owned KTBC.
Ellis will make his debut Wednesday morning on KOKE-FM, which can be heard on three Central Texas frequencies: 99.3 FM, 98.5 FM and 1490 AM.
His broadcasts will air primarily during the station’s morning show hosted by Bob Cole, who is Austin Radio Network’s principal owner.
“Dick Ellis has been an important member of the news media for more than three decades and his experience will be a great asset to the people of Central Texas,” Cole said. “I’ve known, watched and listened to Dick for over 30 years. To this day, I have zero idea what his politics are or even might be. He is Austin’s Walter Cronkite. We’re asking him to join the family here and build a news department that is an accurate, reliable and trusted source for news that affects the lives of our listeners.”
The Austin Radio Network news team is expected to expand in the coming months. The company’s other stations include sports-focused 104.9 The Horn and 105.3 The Fringe, home of morning hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree.
“I’m blessed to have the marvelous opportunity to join the fine men and women at the Austin Radio Network,” Ellis said. “Keeping our listeners informed on the events and issues that affect their lives is a great challenge and responsibility, and I eagerly look forward to building on the legendary accomplishments of such an outstanding group of radio stations.”
Suddenlink Communications customers nationwide – including thousands in Leander, Pflugerville, Georgetown and elsewhere in Central Texas – woke up Wednesday without access to Nickelodeon, MTV and several other well-known cable networks.
The blackout comes after five months of failed contract negotiations between Suddenlink, the nation’s ninth largest cable provider, and Viacom, owner of the networks.
Other cable channels that disappeared are BET, CMT, Spike, TV Land, VH1 and Comedy Central.
The Viacom stations have been replaced – at least temporarily – by several new channels that weren’t previously available to Suddenlink subscribers.
Suddenlink claims Viacom is asking for an increase of monthly per-subscriber fees that amounts to about 50 percent, while also pointing out that Nielsen ratings for many of the Viacom networks are down by as much as 30 percent.
Those higher fees would result in higher cable bills, Suddenlink says.
Viacom, in a written statement, said it was willing to agree to the terms of Suddenlink’s final offer for one year in hopes of preventing a blackout. Suddenlink, however, reportedly “took the unprecedented step of rejecting its own proposal.”
“Suddenlink claimed to Viacom that it had created bandwidth issues that it is unable to remedy,” the Viacom statement said, in part. “Inexplicably, Suddenlink has backed itself into a corner and is now unable to accept its own final proposal.”
Suddenlink disputes those claims.
“The truth is, Viacom has rejected all our offers, including one we made Sept. 30,” the cable provider said in a written statement. “It’s unfortunate we could not reach agreement, and we understand the frustration this will cause some customers.”
About 60 other cable companies nationwide have also dumped the Viacom networks, citing the higher fees, according to Suddenlink.
In the Central Texas area, networks filling the Viacom spots on Suddenlink’s expanded basic tier will include the Hallmark Channel (Channels 41/782), FXX (Channels 58/742), Investigation Discovery (Channels 35/748), Oprah Winfrey’s OWN (Channels 31/784), Glenn Beck’s The Blaze (Channels 59/741), Pivot (Channels 64/746), Up! (Channels 34/747) and Sprout (Channels 56/744), which features children’s programming.
Customers with digital service will get even more new channels: Aspire (Channel 214), Baby First TV (Channel 211), Comedy.TV (Channel 212), Crime and Investigation (Channel 215), ESPN Goal Line/Buzzer Beater (Channels 145/685), Fusion (Channel 144), Game Show Network (Channels 210/688), the MGM Channel (Channel 325), Military History Channel (Channel 216), RFD TV (Channel 200), RLTV (Channe 217), Revolt (Channel 213) and TV One (Channel 187).