Rick Bentley

Big changes for Valley broadcasters in 2009

With the end of 2009 rapidly approaching, it’s time to look back at some of the biggest local television and radio moments of the past 12 months.

* Change is good: Local television stations switched from analog to digital signals, which led to better pictures and opened the door for local stations to add multiple channels.

But the change was a long and difficult process. The original deadline of Feb. 17 was delayed because so many people hadn’t purchased the converter boxes needed to make their TVs read the digital signal. The switch was finally made June 12.

* Move that bus: A crew from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was in Fresno Jan. 8-15 to build a new home for Mary Ann Riojas and her family. The episode featuring all of the work done by thousands of local volunteers aired March 8.

* That was close: A last-minute agreement was reached in January by what was still Pappas Telecasting and Comcast for KMPH (Channel 26.1) and KFRE (Channel 59.1) to remain on the cable service. The deal was reached just 27 hours before KMPH and KFRE were to be removed from Comcast’s lineup.

* Play ball: KAIL (Channel 53) and the San Francisco Giants reached a two-year agreement in February for the local TV station to be the exclusive broadcast home of the Giants in the central San Joaquin Valley.

* Trading places: Justin and Beth Vaughn and their four children were featured on a February episode of the ABC series “Wife Swap.” The family lives on a dairy farm in Burrell, which is north of Lemoore. Beth traded places with Susan Peterson, the wife and mother of a family from the Bay Area.

* Cutbacks: A steady stream of TV and radio employees were laid off throughout the year because of the poor economy. The trend has appeared to slow in the last few months.

* New bosses: Three new television stations’ general managers were hired this year including: Jack L. Peck, KMPH and KFRE; Dan A. Adams, KFSN (Channel 30.1); and Matt Rosenfeld, KSEE (Channel 24.1). Adams was hired in February to replace Bob Hall, who resigned after he made comments about minorities during jury selection in Fresno County Superior Court that resulted in the dismissal of an entire jury pool.

* Salute: The Veterans Television Channel launched in May on Comcast and AT&T U-verse. Programming ranges from information about veteran benefits to historical topics.

* He did it: Fresno’s Christopher Gorham portrayed one of the killers on the short-run CBS series “Harper’s Island,” which ended in July.

* Big winner: Several local people appeared on network game shows including Travis Cluff, who was on a September episode of ABC’s “Wipeout.” He won $50,000.

* Big news: KSEE launched a 7 p.m. newscast, anchored by Carolyn Bruck, in September only weeks after the NBC affiliate stopped producing a 10 p.m. weekday newscast for KAIL (Channel 7.1).

* Happy days: Clovis East graduate Chris Colfer landed a role in the much-heralded Fox series “Glee.” The series has already earned Golden Globe and SAG awards nominations.

* National spotlight: Yosemite National Park Service ranger Shelton Johnson was featured in the new Ken Burns documentary series “National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” which aired in September and October.

* Revealing moments: Members of the Marcus Wesson family, along with local TV news reporter Alysia Sofios, who wrote a book about the family’s ordeals, made two appearances on “Dr. Phil.”It was a busy year.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at rbentley@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.