Harman Patil (Editor)

Action News

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Action News

Action News is a local television newscast format in the United States. First conceived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it is characterized by a tight format with strict time limits on set packages, a focus on surrounding suburbs, and a focus on young talent. It was a competitor to the "Eyewitness News" format.



The "Action News" format was conceived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at WFIL-TV (now WPVI-TV) by news director Mel Kampmann in 1970 as a response to the "Eyewitness News" format that was used on rival station KYW-TV. At this time, WFIL-TV was said to be "#4 in a three-station market."

The main difference between Action News and Eyewitness News was that the former was far more tightly formatted. Time limits were placed on packages – for instance, a reporter package could be no longer than 90 seconds. This difference enabled the station to cover more stories than its competitors. Another key difference was the focus on the surrounding Philadelphia suburban areas – a response to the movement of residents from the city to the suburbs. Finally, WPVI placed more emphasis on young talent – while WCAU-TV and KYW-TV used older, well-known news anchors such as Vince Leonard, Tom Snyder, and John Facenda, WPVI had a young Larry Kane as its top anchor. Later, the station would add the very popular Jim O'Brien as its main weathercaster.

The format was immediately successful, and after going back and forth with KYW for first place, WPVI took the lead in 1977 which it has held ever since. Capital Cities Communications, WPVI's owner at the time, took the format to most of its other stations.

One of the major development stations for WPVI's Action News was its Capital Cities sister station, WKBW-TV in Buffalo, New York. Under the leadership of news director Irv Weinstein, who had developed his own similar format under the name Eyewitness News (and before that, Pulse Beat News and Rock and Roll Radio News), WKBW developed much of the talent that WPVI would later hire to boost them to #1 in the market; anchor Jim Gardner (replacing Larry Kane when he moved to WABC in New York), weatherman Dave Roberts, and voice-over artist Jeff Kaye are the three highest-profile WPVI personalities to have come from WKBW.

WPIX in New York City, an independent station at the time, picked up the Action News concept (and music) successfully for its 10 p.m. newscast. The newscast won numerous awards, but the station never approached the ratings of longtime leader WNEW-TV (now WNYW).

In 2002 and 2003 (respectively), WFTS-TV in Tampa, Florida and KSHB-TV in Kansas City, Missouri (both owned by the E. W. Scripps Company) became the first stations in the country to identify themselves with the Action News as a full-time station branding (for both local newscasts and entertainment programming) with no station number.

Today, Action News innovations have been incorporated into newscasts across the country.

Outside the United States, the Action News title was used by the following television stations:

  • Germany's RTL II (then known as RTL2) in the 1990s
  • CKCO-TV in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, in the 1980s and 1990s
  • NWS-9 in Adelaide, Australia, in the 1980s
  • Netherlands' SBS 6 since its inception in 1995 until 2006
  • Colombia's Caracol TV (then as a production company for Inravisión) as Noticias de Acción in the 1980s
  • Japan's TV Asahi
  • Theme

    WFIL adopted the Action News format in 1970. Originally the program was introduced with a brass band theme written by Temple University student Tom Sellers. The entire theme was offered through the Philadelphia Inquirer, as a single sided 45 RPM record for about 25¢. Two years later, the station (under its new call sign WPVI) replaced "The Action News Theme" with Al Ham's "Move Closer to Your World".

    WPVI continues to use this theme after four decades, even as others have stopped using it, although it has been remastered several times (which have included the removal of a bongo line) in order for the theme to sound less dated. In 1996, the station replaced the original Al Ham theme with a fuller, orchestral version performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Viewer outcry caused the station to drop the new version within five days. "Move Closer to Your World" is probably the only news theme to be offered as a ringtone, which is offered by WPVI free of charge.

    Action News offered the first evening newscasts to be solo anchored by a woman: Diana Robinson, who was the first African-American female news anchor in American television. She was followed by Jacqui Mullen.

    WPVI opens its broadcasts with a rapid montage featuring scenes of Philadelphia-area activities. The scenes are rotated to reflect the current season. For example, spring footage of the Phillies, NASCAR, CART and DIRT starts on March 21, while footage of the Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Flyers, and 76ers starts on September 23, and footage of the Mummers Parade with other winter scenes is shown from December 21 to March 21.

    Although "Move Closer to Your World" is strongly associated with the Action News format, many stations that have used the "Action News" name actually chose to use other pieces of music for their newscasts. Conversely, stations that use "Move Closer to Your World" do not necessarily use the "Action News" name or format. WNEP-TV in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania used the original version of the theme for many years before switching to a modern variation which only partially resembles the original.

  • In an early episode of The Simpsons, a local station is shown using the Action News branding plus a similar intro – but portrays the show as having more action and explosions instead of being faster paced.
  • In Ray Stevens' 1974 hit "The Streak", he plays an "Action News reporter" on the scene of three different streaking events, every time interviewing the same person (also played by Stevens) who keeps warning his wife, "Ethel", not to look – "but it's too late." At the end of the piece, the streaker is joined by "Ethel", much to the husband's horror.
  • In the South Park episode "Quest for Ratings", the kids change the name of their school news program from "Super School News" to "Sexy Action School News" and add other outrageous elements in an attempt to get higher ratings from their rival program.
  • The 2004 comedy film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy parodies 1970s culture, particularly Action News.
  • The comic strip This Modern World, by "Tom Tomorrow," regularly depicts reporters from "Action McNews."
  • DJ Sega from the Philadelphia-based record label Mad Decent created a dance remix of the Action News intro song.
  • References

    Action News Wikipedia

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