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Taking it on the road

Promotional partnership with Quincy radio station brings WCVB newscasts to morning and evening commuters

(Globe Digital Illustration)
By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / September 12, 2009

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Boston audiences won’t actually have to watch television to tune into WCVB-TV (Channel 5) morning and evening newscasts.

Beginning Thursday, commuters can listen to WCVB’s news on WWZN-AM (1510) in their car radios. The two media outlets are partnering to simulcast WCVB’s 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts on the Quincy radio station. The deal is promotional and does not include financial terms or advertising agreements.

For WWZN, known as The Zone and Revolution Boston for its talk and sports shows, the partnership gives fans of WCVB, which wins most of the day’s newscasts in Boston, a reason to check out the radio station.

For WCVB, the association serves as another promotional tool.

“We see this as a public and community service, as well as a promotional collaboration,’’ said Neil Ungerleider, executive editor of WCVB. “We are reaching people who are not at home to watch television at that time.’’

Such an arrangement is unique in Boston, but it has been done in other markets around the country. Last February, Portland, Maine’s WCSH6, an NBC affiliate, began simulcasting its morning and early evening newscasts on two AM stations. And sometimes the reverse happens when radio stations broadcast their shows on TV: National shock jock Don Imus will have such an arrangement when his morning radio show begins simulcasting on Fox Business Network next month.

“It’s fairly common, and usually, it’s a local station partnering with a TV station,’’ said Tom Taylor, editor of radio-info.com, a website that covers the radio industry. “There are advantages to both sides. . . . It’s good marketing for both sides if it is done properly.’’

With television being such a visual medium, though, Taylor said that TV stations’ news writers and anchors must pay close attention in explaining visual cues to a potential listeners.

Ungerleider said that anchors make regular references to video on screen to create a mental picture for someone who might be tuning into the news from a car.

“They are hearing nothing different than the viewer at home is hearing,’’ he said. “The traffic reporter might say, ‘We are looking at a shot at the Mass. Pike, and as you can see that traffic is backing up.’ You certainly get the picture of what they are talking about.’’

The deal happened after Jeff Santos, who hosts a political and news morning drive talk show on WWZN, reached out to WCVB officials this summer to simulcast their newscasts to help build awareness for the radio station, which is owned by Blackstrap Broadcasting.

“We believe that Channel 5 gives us a news outlet that we can buttress our talk format with,’’ said Santos, who owns Santos Media, which leases airtime on WWZN.

WCVB has a similar arrangement with Lowell’s WCAP-AM (980). In 2007, WCAP began simulcasting WCVB’s 5 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. newscasts. WCVB’s sister station, WMUR-TV in New Hampshire, simulcasts its 6 p.m. newscasts on radio stations WTPL-FM (107.7) and WTSN-AM (1270). And although WBZ-TV (Channel 4) doesn’t simulcast its newscasts on WBZ-AM (1030), news anchors regularly do blocks of news a couple minutes long on the radio station and on Mix FM (104.1), which are owned by CBS Radio.

Peter Casey, director of news and programming at WBZ Radio, said he is not worried about WCVB’s arrival on WWZN. After all, WBZ-AM is the most listened to news talk radio station in Boston, according to recent Arbitron ratings.

“They really haven’t been on the radar screen that much,’’ Casey said. “I don’t expect this to have any impact on WBZ.’’

WBUR-FM (90.9)’s station manager echoed that sentiment. “The audience that will be tuning into that radio station for TV news style is not BUR’s audience,’’ said Corey Lewis, station manager. “Our stories are literally four or fives times as long as television stories. It’s not going to be an overlap for us.’’

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com.