WBAL-Channel 11 and WJZ-Channel 13 continue to duke it out in the battle for local news watchers, with Channel 11 maintaining its lead in the lucrative 11 p.m. slot and Channel 13 staying on top at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
That's one of the few unassailable conclusions to be drawn from Baltimore's May Nielsen ratings, which stress that Baltimore has become a two-horse TV-news town, but offer conflicting evidence on who's really ahead.
At 11 p.m., the numbers have stayed fairly constant since the November 1995 ratings book. WBAL's late-night broadcast has consistently drawn about 20,000 more viewers than WJZ's; the most recent figures show WBAL with 113,000 viewers, WJZ with 93,000 and WMAR-Channel 2 with 77,000.
At 6 p.m, WJZ remained on top, although by a slimmer margin. During May, 33,000 more viewers watched WJZ (109,000 people total) than runner-up WBAL (with 76,000 viewers); WMAR had 72,000 viewers. Last November, WJZ outdistanced the nearest competition by 39,000 viewers -- 127,000 people watched its 6 p.m. newscast compared to 88,000 each for WBAL and WMAR.
And at 5 p.m., once-dominant WMAR has slid to third while WJZ and WBAL are engaged in a seesaw battle for supremacy. In November, WJZ had slightly less than 10,000 more viewers than WBAL. In February, WBAL squeezed out a win by just one-tenth of a ratings point (approximately 980 viewers). For May, WJZ is back on top, by slightly more than 10,000 viewers.
What does this all mean? Not much for viewers, who, one hopes, base their viewing preferences on which news team does the best job, not which one has the highest Nielsens. But it means plenty for the local stations, who base their advertising rates on these thrice-yearly audience measurements.
And it offers a field day for numbers crunchers at both WJZ and WBAL, who are busy putting the best spin possible on the results.
WBAL, for instance, is bragging not only that it has continued winning at 11 p.m., but that the audience share for all three of its evening newscasts has grown since last May -- the only local station that can make such a claim.
Not to be outdone, WJZ officials stress that their newscasts bring in viewers from other stations. Its 5 p.m. show increases audience share (the percentage of those people watching TV who are tuned to WJZ) by 27 percent over its lead-in, while the 11 p.m. broadcast ups the station's share by 6 percent. By that measure, WBAL loses viewers to other stations at both 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., while WMAR remains steady at 11 p.m. and increases its share at 5 p.m. by 14 percent.
And, keep in mind that WBAL's late news benefits from its association with NBC, the network leader in both ratings and quality prime-time TV. WJZ's 11 p.m. news must follow CBS' anemic ratings line-up.
Apples for the teachers
Congratulations to these educators who have been recognized as the Radio Zone's Teachers of the Week during May:
Sue Smith, a second-grade teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Baltimore. "She's the best teacher I ever had," writes Becky Jordan, "and she's my friend."
Patricia Garland, who teaches third grade at North Bend Elementary School in Harford County. She has a definite fan in Angela Bushman, who nominated her. "She makes learning fun. She is funny, too. I really like her!"
Kathy Fagen, a fourth-grade teacher at Pleasant Plains Elementary in Baltimore. "She helps you when you get stuck on a problem," says Rachel S. Ventura, "and if you do something good, like long division, that you've never done before, she congratulates you."
Carol Nee, who teaches second grade at St. Joseph Elementary School in Cockeysville. Explains student nominator Patrick Greenwell, "I like her as a teacher because she is very nice, she is loving and she is caring."
Carole Ruth Cougnet, a first-grade teacher at Cromwell Valley Elementary in Baltimore County, who apparently made quite an impression on Daryl Crensin. "Her math is excellent," young Daryl writes. "I think she should win an award from the president because she is so smart."
The Radio Zone is a station devoted to music for children ages 2 to 12 and their families. It broadcasts on WKDB-AM (1570) in Baltimore and WKDL-AM (1050) in Washington.
Roots of country music
Country fans with an appreciation for the music's roots, or country fans who would like to gain an appreciation for the music's roots, should check out episode one of the three-part "America's Music: The Roots of Country," airing 7-9 tonight on TBS.
The first half of tonight's kickoff goes back to the very beginning, to the Grand Ole Opry, the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. The second half highlights Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, reminding viewers why the genre was referred to for years as country and western.
Narrated occasionally by Kris Kristofferson, the series could use a little more objective context (that is, more narration to put things in perspective) and a few fewer talking heads. But that's ++ meant as a fairly minor quibble: its scope is impressive, the talking heads make a lot of good points, and the music is pretty fabulous.
C7 Episodes two and three air on the next two Sundays.
Break for Petty
Up for 90 minutes of one of the most enduring acts in rock? Then tune to WIYY-FM (97.9) at 10 tonight for "The 98 Rock Sunday Night Concert," this week featuring Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.
Can't wait for tonight? Sorry, I'm afraid you'll have to. But if it's any comfort, remember: "The waiting is the hardest part."
Pub Date: 6/02/96