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Evening broadcasts start next week at New Hampshire 1 News

Last modified: 9/11/2014 11:16:47 PM
Four clocks hang on the wall inside the newsroom at Bill Binnie’s new TV station in Concord.

They are labeled for Portsmouth, Nashua, Manchester and Concord. They all reported the time to be 11:06 a.m. yesterday, their hands ticking along in sync as the news staff worked below.

The clocks may be Binnie’s parody of international newsrooms, but the Seacoast businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate is serious about building a media empire across New Hampshire. Next week, he’ll add television news to his portfolio when New Hampshire 1 News starts its first evening broadcasts from the former Walker School in Concord. Less than a week before the TV launch, Binnie showed off the new studio yesterday to media and local officials.

“New Hampshire is underserved from a television

news standpoint. . . . We know there’s a need,” Binnie said. “We know we can make a product that is, frankly, better.”

Binnie painted NH1 as a soon-to-be rival to ABC affiliate WMUR, which has covered local and political news in New Hampshire since 1954. Channel 9 is based in Manchester and owned by Hearst Television. The state also has New Hampshire Public Television, a PBS station based in Durham. Binnie briefly owned Channel 13 in Nashua, but he sold the station to Over the Air, or OTA Broadcasting, last year. He bought WZMY Channel 50 in Derry in 2011. Renamed WBIN, that station stopped its news broadcast last year.

“We think we can give a product that is substantially different,” Binnie said.

News Director Robb Atkinson didn’t elaborate on any specific differences in content at NH1, and he said the station won’t focus on one community in particular. Its viewers could include more than 7 million people in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, but Atkinson said NH1 is geared toward the Granite State.

“Our focus is all things New Hampshire,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson opened the doors to a state-of-the-art studio, where he pointed to the technology he believes will set the station apart. A sleek anchor desk is flanked by a large computer screen, where Atkinson pulled up 2016 presidential election graphics with the swipe of a finger.

“We want to be relevant, we want to be independent,” said Atkinson, who came to NH1 from CNN. “We want to showcase the news that matters most to the people of New Hampshire.”

Down the hall from the TV studio, the “on air” light was red outside a radio studio. Binnie stepped through the door anyway, interrupting a radio host for 105.5 JYY while he was recording a commercial. “I’m the only one who can’t get fired for that,” he joked when he realized his mistake.

NH1 is already broadcasting news bulletins on 12 New Hampshire radio stations. Binnie Media owns 16 in New Hampshire and Maine.

“We all want news,” Binnie said. “That hasn’t changed. We just consume it differently.”

So he’s dipping into the web, radio and television.

“We’re just going to play in all of them,” he said.

Atkinson also wants NH1 reporters to share their content across its three platforms. For example, a reporter could take pictures for nh1.com and capture a sound bite for a radio story even if it won’t be included in the evening’s television broadcast.

“When you combine all of those resources, now you will be able to speak to 80 percent of New Hampshire,” Atkinson said.

And all of those resources will be combined in a nearly 100-year-old elementary school. Binnie bought the former Walker School on Church Street from the Concord School District last year for $900,000. The building has been renovated to make way for camera crews and computer stations. The signatures of former teachers and administrators have been preserved on the back of a first-floor door, but most of the building would be unrecognizable to the young students who once filled its halls.

Atkinson didn’t say exactly how much the construction project cost. “A lot,” he said.

Binnie Media employs about 120 people; 55 of them work in the new Concord building. The network’s other bureaus are located in Derry, Laconia, Lebanon, Manchester and on the Seacoast. Binnie’s plan is to keep growing the staff and add morning coverage to the network’s lineup. A political show is also on the horizon, Atkinson said.

“You can see a day very soon when the next president of the United States will walk into this building,” Atkinson said.

Beginning Monday, NH1 will broadcast weekdays at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Comcast Channel 18 in the Concord area. On weekends, the news program will air at 10 p.m. Its website will launch soon after the start of the television broadcasts.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story has been edited to correct the name of Channel 13’s owner in Nashua.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)


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