back in Hawaii TV
Several media ownership issues are pending before the Federal Communications Commission, making the appointment of a single executive to lead both KHON and KGMB-TV particularly significant.
Rick Blangiardi yesterday was appointed senior vice president and general manager of both stations, which have been owned by Indiana-based Emmis Communications Corp. under waivers of FCC rules since September 2000.
Emmis purchased KHON in 1998 and later bought KGMB in a multi-station deal from Iowa-based Lee Enterprises Inc.
Media ownership rules are currently in dispute on a national level as radio, television, newspaper, outdoor advertising and other media companies seek deregulation and convergence. Emmis is seeking a stay of the requirement that it sell one of the two stations.
The Emmis move displaces KHON Vice President and General Manager Bill Spellman, who said he has "fulfilled his contract." Former KGMB General Manager Lynne Mueller left the station June 14 to move to the mainland.
Blangiardi said he was not looking at consolidations, and that it was premature to discuss changes to staff.
A phone call to the KHON general manager's direct line yesterday morning was answered by Bill Spellman's voice mail, in his own voice. By shortly after 11 a.m. it had been changed. A female voice informed the caller they had reached Blangiardi's desk.
Spellman on Monday led an "aloha" staff meeting at KHON "to remind them to focus on all the accomplishments we've had," he said. The successes he listed included expanding the station's news product to include a 5 p.m. newscast.
"I wanted them to feel good about their support and what they've been able to do," Spellman said. "It has been a very successful station."
His contract has not been renewed by Emmis and he intends to stay in Hawaii.
He joked about being "the next big anchor threat," as Dan Cooke leaves KITV at week's end.
"My wife and I both and my son feel so strongly ... that this is where we're supposed to be," Spellman said.
Spellman's "aloha Monday" was followed by a whirlwind tour of both stations by Blangiardi and Randy Bongarten, Emmis' television division president.
Between 1984 and 1989, Blangiardi was vice president and general manager of KIKU-TV, which became KHNL. He served in a variety of positions at KGMB from 1977 until he left to join KIKU.
"I moved to the mainland but I never left Hawaii," he said.
Following his move to KING-TV in Seattle, Blangiardi first met Jeff Smulyan, Emmis chairman, president and chief executive, who then owned the Seattle Mariners.
They met up again three years ago and "we had a conversation about this possibility," said Blangiardi, who instead joined Spanish-language network Telemundo and became president of its 10-station television group. Telemundo was purchased by NBC earlier this year.
After the sale closed in April, Blangiardi said, "we began talking again."
Moving here solo, Blangiardi, 55, said his three children, born in Hawaii, are thrilled to have the islands back in their lives.
As when he first joined the station in 1977, the first face to greet him at KGMB today was that of long-time receptionist Anita Brady. "She's just wonderful," he said. "She was great to me when I first started."
Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached