In May 2009 we told you CBS-owned WFOR had decided not to renew their helicopter rental agreement with Helicopters Inc. which expires at the end of 2009. We are now learning that as Chopper 4’s final days are coming to a close, Sky10 is being repainted sans logos because WFOR and WPLG have entered into a helicopter sharing agreement.
As of January 1, 2010, CBS affiliate WFOR and ABC affiliate WPLG are entering into a helicopter pool agreement where the two stations will share video and dispatching responsibilities of what was formerly WPLG’s helicopter Sky10. A memo sent to WFOR employees announcing the pool agreement says the helicopter is now owned by stations and encourages them to treat WPLG as a partner and not a competitor. Sky10’s current pilot and photographer crews, supplied by Helicopters Inc., will be the ones working with both TV stations. Sky10 itself is getting repainted to strip away the WPLG logos from it. We have no information on what’s next for Chopper 4’s crew.
According to the memo, the “new” pooled helicopter will be available to both WFOR and WPLG daily from 6am to 6pm, though WFOR at least still has an agreement with Metro Traffic to use video footage from their helicopter.
Details of the pool agreement are after the jump
- The helicopter has 60 hours of flight time per month. The chopper will be grounded if hours are exceeded and either news director must give permission to fly it
- If the 60 hours are exceeded next month’s flying hours are reduced to compensate overage
- Each station has up to 5 hours of private flight time per month, but in the case of breaking news, the chopper must be diverted immediately
- Unused private time can not be banked and carried forward to the next month. Stations are encouraged not to waste it but save it in case they need it in case of news.
- Helicopter dispatch will be rotating. One month WPLG dispatches the chopper, the next month WFOR does it and so on
- The station launching the chopper must inform the assignment desk of the other station where and why the helicopter is flying to as soon as the hangar is called. Not when the chopper arrives on scene.
- If it’s not the station’s turn to dispatch, they must call the other station and request a dispatch. However, the dispatching station has final decision on whether or not the chopper will be sent out
- There will be no direct Q&A with the chopper crew anymore. Stations can opt to listen in on the crew during coverage but no direct conversation is allowed.
- Microwave signal from the helicopter will be received by WPLG, but it can also be received by WFOR at Homestead. Both stations receive each other’s signal via dedicated fiber-optic line
When we broke the news in May that WFOR wasn’t renewing their helicopter contract, there were rumors that WFOR, WTVJ and WPLG would pool Sky10 and use it together. At one point we heard WSVN was mentioned at as a possible partner in a chopper pool with one or more stations as well.
It now appears that WTVJ will probably stay without a helicopter. We don’t know yet whether or not they have an agreement with Metro Traffic to use video from their helicopter.
For now it appears that WSVN will be the only station in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale market to run their own helicopter. They also have an agreement to take video from Metro Traffic’s helicopter in the morning, which is what Steven J Gray flies in.
Several months ago when we covered buget problems at WSVN as the recession unfoled, insiders told us that WSVN has no plans on giving up Skyforce.