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WikiProject Television Stations

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By Mabeenot
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This week, we tuned to WikiProject Television Stations, a project that dates back to March 2004. WikiProject Television Stations primarily focuses on local stations, national networks, television markets, and other topics related to television channels in North America, the Caribbean, and some Pacific countries. Other areas of the world are handled by the regional subprojects dedicated to British, Australian, and Indian television or by the parent WikiProject Television. Among the various tasks handled by WikiProject Television Stations are developing the television station infobox, keeping the project's categories tidy, updating station lists, and building articles. The project has a fair bit of work ahead of them with over 4,000 unassessed articles and only one Good Article out of 626 assessed articles, giving the project a relative WikiWork rating of 5.262. We asked Nate (Mrschimpf) how we can help.

What motivated you to join WikiProject Television Stations? Have you contributed to any other television-related WikiProjects?
I have had a long-held interest in television stations and broadcasting in general since I was a child. Although I never went into the industry, the fascination with local television, the many ways of presenting local television news and graphical identities led me to keep following it. Naturally I joined Wikipedia after hearing about it from the television critic for the Kansas City Star eight years back, and my main interest has remained in local television stations. I do consider myself a floating, but not official member of WP:TV, as I usually stick to articles about television shows that interest me most and keeping articles about children's networks and programming from turning into promotional pieces.

How technical do articles about television stations tend to be? Are some sections of these articles harder to research and write than others? What images are needed to illustrate articles about television stations?
If there's one thing I'm glad for, the public domain information from the Federal Communications Commission provides a nice and stable ground to start articles about stations, thus the most technical details to be found out are the neighborhoods and areas where the transmitters and studios are and of former transmitter sites that are defunct due to suburban encroachment or the digital transition, or other factors. Being technical about a station is fine, but you have to still give the article a touch that the average reader can understand.

As for images, as a longtime editor, we have become more focused in what images are used in articles. Because of the restrictions on fair use guidelines over the years, an article that in 2007 may have contained multiple screengrabs and historical logos now in 2013 usually only provides the current station logo, an image of the station's newscast opening or the main anchor team, and in rare cases (such as for larger market stations), public domain or Creative Commons images of other station staff. Previously before the culling of this, articles were more focused on imaging, where now television station articles are more focused on basics and newscast descriptions. Admittedly the fair use policies took a bit to get used to as they were instituted, but they provide a good idea of where we must go, and there are other resources (such as Wikia's Logopedia) where those interested can look up historical station logos.

Why does WikiProject Television Stations focus primarily on stations in North America? Are some regions of North America better covered by Wikipedia than others? What can be done to improve articles about television stations in other parts of the world?
Mainly it's more the setup of North American television more than anything, specifically that of Canada, the United States and Caribbean states, and to a lesser extent, the Philippines, which as a former American dependency shares some part of the North American television structure (Japan also does to a point, though they have their own eccentricities). Australia also is structured American-style, though with much fewer stations than the US and Canada. In other nations, the setup of network television consists of:

  • Main station in country's capital/largest city
  • Smaller stations retransmit that signal with maybe only a local news/weather cut-in
  • Main network/engineering third party maintains all stations and transmitters

Also in the Middle East, India and Africa, those stations usually have negligible station coverage and then mostly satellite networks serving them.

Thus in those cases, the main network article covers everything, and for all intents and purposes, nobody in London knows BBC One as "Channel 26" in that area, because the digital system bumps everyone to "Channel 1" to watch BBC One. So covering local television is a less critical need of coverage for nations with the 'hub-spoke' broadcasting model.

Canada and US are by far the most covered by WPTVS, with Mexico a close third in my view, followed by the Philippines and Australia. Trailing off from there, are other North American markets where little information is available, such as Puerto Rico. As expected, the coverage of Mexico, the Philippines and Central and Caribbean America is only as good as the devoted contributors there, and depends on good language comprehension. In vacation destinations though, the coverage is much more spotty as it's natural that a Wikipedia contributor's priority is low in covering the television happenings of the US Virgin Islands. Coverage can be improved with more outreach to the editors of those other nations, but one problem has been the Filipino coverage of their stations is much more influenced by 'network fans' because of the very competitive television network scene in that nation, which results in promotional problems with coverage in the nation's stations.

In 2008, the project dealt with the ramifications of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown order. What happened, how did it impact the WikiProject, and have there been any new developments since then?
The takedown of the Designated Market Area (DMA) information by ACNielsen was a shock to be sure. The DMA information provided a simple way to categorize the nation's television markets from largest to smallest, and when we lost that, we had to scramble. Public domain descriptions of geography helped to define a general area of a television station's territory rather than the defined DMA borders, and other factors such as natural weather warning areas and regions certainly have helped make things as easy as possible. Using US Census information to sort largest-to-smallest areas has helped too, though I do admit the Nielsen-defined areas were easier. But we have been able to manage. Nothing has really changed since 2008, except for letting newer contributors know about the DMCA claim when they put in the numbers without knowing the problems.

How are defunct television stations treated? Where can Wikipedians find historical information on television stations?
It depends on the station. If it was on the air for less than a year, it can usually be summarized within another article in the general area, especially if it's shared another channel in the past. But that is definitely something more done by local viewers who are eager to share the information through library and archival searches using hard copy sources such as newspaper microfilm, station archives (in these days, much harder as stations merge and things get trashed), local listings and memories of others; the Internet definitely does not contain that much about the UHF white dwarfs of the 1950's. Thankfully many television enthusiasts are out there to tell us about the intricacies and histories of their markets.

What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
Our most urgent need is good and focused article writing. Too many of the smaller articles (such as those for Class A television stations and minor network affiliates are less researched than major full power stations. They need more help than most. Another need for articles is more sources for research. Many have sprung up since Wikipedia began, and now even with the FCC with a few clicks you can see a station's coverage area within Google Earth. But we can always get better.

As for new contributors, I always say they're welcome to pick up and start helping us out, we could always use their eyes as to how their television stations are, though we ask for neutrality in their writing. Especially, we're always looking for international coverage to expand, and in Canada with their shifting television scene as the CBC and other networks close stations to make wide swaths of that nation cable-only, we're looking for some help there. As I say on my userpage, bring the bricks of your knowledge, and we'll put a good foundation below it with our expertise.

Anything else you'd like to add?
That should pretty much cover everything. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to speak about WPTVS, and hopefully the Signpost can provide our group a little more wide exposure.

Next week, we'll begin oral arguments in the landmark case of this century. Until then, enjoy the supreme wisdom of our previous interviews in the archive.

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