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Fox News Sinking?

New morning show flies under ratings radar

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There's a formula for what's called morning TV news programs. It's the news, weather, and traffic, stupid, and the rest is just a flavor shot in your morning latte.

WCCB-TV entered Charlotte's morning news race less than a month ago, with what they hope is a fresher take on the formula -- Fox News Rising. FoxCharlotte has made its name on wacky weathermen and an eye toward younger viewers. This time, it doesn't work, and the shtick is wearing thin. Promising "news, weather, traffic and opinion," FNR is dreadful, and the reasons are many, which I'll get to in a minute. After watching, I then looked at its ratings to be sure I wasn't nuts.

In the first week of this current February Nielsens rating book, FNR averaged a 0.9 rating and 2 share, which is barely high enough for Nielsen to track. By comparison, the morning leader in the market, WSOC-TV, averaged 9 and then 11.2 ratings between 6 and 8am.

There are a few bright spots in FNR. Traffic reporter Michael Haun is personable, although why does he wear sunglasses indoors every morning? Location reporter Shannon Fox, a not-so-dumb blonde, reports live from coffee shops and radio shows. And as usual at WCCB, the graphic look and music is ahead of anyone else in the market.

Overall, though, FNR's problems are many: a cramped set with ugly faux-brick walls and local news content that's light at best. It's a program that looks like it's done on the cheap. Then there are the hosts. Richard Spires, bounced from WBT-AM last year, and Robin King, another former radiohead from the re-formatted Star (now) K-104.7, are trying to be hip and funny, squeezed behind a teeny glass table. He reads the news, with both often injecting their own comments afterward, and she reads weather, with forecast maps emblazoned with inane graphics like "Oh Yeah!" and "Ruh Roh!" Ruh, roh, indeed.

This is morning drive radio on TV, and it doesn't work, because it has all those irritating radio cliches, like prolonged laughter when the viewer's not in on whatever the hell is funny. Spires' dry wit, which sometimes worked on radio, comes off as snide and know-it-all, and King is in full "second banana" mode. We've heard this before. It's just worse having to watch it.

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