TV Q&A: 'Castaways,' weather coverage and WTAE's pre-emption of ABC for Steelers

Thursday, 27 September 2018 12:00 PM Written by 

Q: So I just finished watching the reality series “Castaways” on ABC. Some of these people were literally starving on these islands yet determined to stick it out until they were “rescued.” They seemed to indicate they were doing this for their loved ones. Were they being paid if they managed to last until the rescue boat arrived?

Three competition/elimination shows that I really enjoy are “So You Think You Can Dance,” “America's Got Talent” and “World of Dance. The passion, skill, and dedication the ultimate winners demonstrate is absolutely amazing!  What disturbs me is that the final few are the creme de la creme, but only one person (or act) gets the ridiculously exorbitant monetary prize, and the runners-up get nothing.

I think “Jeopardy!” has it right. When they have their various tournaments, the final winner wins $100K, and the second and third place winners get generous money prizes of $50K and $25K.  

It would be more reasonable (and palatable, I think) to split the prize money: reduce the winner's prize to a more modest amount (perhaps $100K like “Jeopardy”), and also reward the runners up with a generous monetary prize.  They come in behind the grand prize winner by only the smallest of margins and are deserving of recognition of their achievement

I'd like to know who I could forward this suggestion to who might be amenable to changing the current arrangement.


Rob: To a degree, this already happens, it’s just not discussed.

Runners-up on most reality series are paid for their time on the show. The longer they stay on the show, the more they are compensated. Now, it may not be the big bucks of game shows, but they do make some money for their appearances on these programs.



Q: I was busy this summer and had not watched KDKA news. I recently noticed that Ron Smiley lost a significant amount of weight. Had he been ill or supporting a healthier diet?


Q: Did Ron Smiley, the KDKA Channel 2 weatherman, lose weight?


Rob: Yes, he did.

“First off, thanks to all the KDKA viewers and your subscribers who have reached out to ask if I’ve lost weight,” Mr. Smiley said in a response to these queries. “Through today, I’ve lost right around 35-40 pounds since Jan. 1 of this year. At the first of the year I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could get my BMI to the ‘normal’ range. This was my New Year’s resolution. As of last month I had accomplished the goal. How’d I do it?  Surprisingly, I actually began to eat more. I just had to make sure what I was eating was the right food. Out was anything sugary. It was replaced with lean meats and veggies. Also I’ve learned cinnamon is a sweet tooth’s best friend. To anyone out there struggling to lose weight, just know that you can do it. I’m pulling for you.”



Q: How do local weather broadcasters know what the current temperature is in New Castle, Uniontown or DuBois during their weather report. Are there automated temperature monitors, government assistance, or local temperature reporting people located all around the surrounding area, or are they, as I fear, just guesses in an attempt to involve the audience in their report?


Rob: Interesting question. My assumption has always been the National Weather Service has reporting stations all over, but I put the question to KDKA-TV’s Jeff Verzsyla and WPXI-TV’s Stephen Cropper.

“The NWS does have access to weather stations located in various communities. Most are automated stations located at local airports, perhaps a lock and dam or other similar style public locations,” Mr. Verszyla said. “In addition, KDKA has a network of weather stations through our partnership with the Weather Bug company. These weather stations are set up at schools, businesses or notable public landmarks like golf courses or stadiums. This gives KDKA access to more current weather data from more locations than the standard NWS automated community network.”

“A good forecast always begins with good data and the most reliable weather data in our area (temperature, winds, rainfall, etc.) comes from airports in the region via ASOS (Automated Surface Observing Stations),” Mr. Cropper said. “As you might imagine, pilots need reliable weather data and we use the same data to update and create forecasts. Beyond airport data, we use MADIS (Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System) from NOAA. This is also an automated system, though at times less reliable because MADIS sites are not as regularly maintained as ASOS locations. The National Weather Service also maintains a network of Cooperative Weather Stations (COOP) made up of volunteer weather observers. Unfortunately, there are still many gaps left in our local weather network, and that's why our team of meteorologists at WPXI closely monitors social media for reliable observations as well. Viewers are our ‘eyes in the field.’” 



Q: Has Channel 4 done something to its signal? My outdoor antenna has always received it until recently. Just found out my neighbor has also lost it. I still get 2-11-13-16-19-22-53 all as per normal.


Rob: I think Joe missed the reports of WTAE’s repack in August, which required viewers receiving WTAE via antenna to re-scan (on their TV or converter box) to pick Channel 4 up again. Do that and if you got WTAE before, you should get it again.



Q: Are you serious!!??? Finally the new season of decent TV is about to start and the ABC Monday shows are shoved out by football this week??!!! With several stations dedicated to sports, including three - count 'em - three ESPN stations listed, why is this necessary?? Granted, this town is sports crazy, but there are plenty of us who simply are not interested and resent this takeover! And the shoved-out shows will then air well after midnight on Tuesday and Wednesday - really???!!! These are the first shows of the new season and set the tone for subsequent offerings!!!! Who in their right mind, and used to keeping normal hours, is interested in those time slots?

I can only hope that this is a one-time thing and that the shoved-out shows can be viewed On Demand!

I know you're just the messenger and are passing this information along (so it's not a low blow on Monday), but c'mon!

Pretty upset!


Rob: WTAE does this every fall – although this year it’s just this week; the Steelers won’t play again on Monday night this season – and the reason they do it is because they can make more money on advertising airing a Steelers game imported from ESPN than they can airing the regular ABC lineup.



Q: The mention in your column in today's (Sep, 21) Post-Gazette about WTAE picking up the Steelers game on Monday night has caused my wife to start her annual rant when this happens multiple times each football season. Obviously, she is no football fan but is a huge “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Good Doctor” fan.  I'm sure I'm not the only husband faced with this issue.

As my ears burn from this decision by WTAE, my question to you is why WTAE doesn't just air these programs on the COZI channel at their designated times?  They heavily promote programming on this channel during their news broadcast. They don't even offer a reasonable viewing time for the pre-empted programs.  I don't know the contractual agreement they have with COZI, but I can't believe they can't make arrangements to make this happen. 

KDKA regularly does this with CBS programming when they pre-empt that programming for a Steelers game. It's available on the CW channel at its normal day and time. And I see WTAE moved “ABC World News” over to Cozi so why not the prime-time shows?


Rob: It’s a good question and one I put to WTAE general manager Charles Wolfertz, suspecting it may have to do with the station’s ABC contract. (KDKA, by virtue of being a CBS-owned station, may have more leeway to shift CBS programming to another channel.)

“I cannot comment on our contract with COZI-TV,” Mr. Wolfertz said.

So maybe it has to do with WTAE’s contract with the Cozi digital subchannel and not the station’s contract with ABC?

But if WTAE can move “ABC World News” perhaps it is more about what time slots they can move and maybe something airing before prime time is OK but not shows that air in prime time, which is 8-11 p.m.



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