The Nicest Guy in Television

At a time when local TV news departments

are pouring huge sums of money into new hires, snazzy graphics, and aggressive ad campaigns, former news anchor Ron Oliveira is standing up for Andy Griffith reruns.

Oliveira, the popular Channel 24 anchor who jumped the news ship last year to launch KNVA (Channel 54, Cable 12), is perfectly thrilled with his new life as co-owner and general manager of Austin's newest independent station. KNVA, which until January carried only weather radar reports, offers a lineup of old sit-coms like Hogan's Heroes and The Beverly Hillbillies, and that bitchin' adventure show, Hawaii Five-O. The station also carries Wednesday night programming from the equally new Warner Bros. Television Network.

Oliveira may be immersed in the business of syndicated reruns, but once a news hound, always a news hound. Oliveira is intensely interested in what other TV stations are doing to prepare for what many consider to be revolutionary changes in the local television industry, as the local Fox and CBS affiliates trade networks, and KVUE and KXAN hope to take advantage and move into the lead position.

In the face of all these changes, Oliveira expects his entertainment station to seriously compete with the local news channels - not to lure viewers away from the news, but to build an audience of folks who don't give a twit about current events.

"We're looking for those non-news viewers," Oliveira, with 18 years in the news business, says unapologetically. "And believe me, there's a huge market out there for people who don't want to watch the news. Shows like Andy Griffith, Fresh Prince, Hogan's Heroes - these are programs that you can watch with your child or your grandmother."

At 39, Oliveira has that fresh-faced look that appeals to TV viewers. At Channel 24, his presence was a good match for friend and former co-anchor, Judy Maggio. The pair could survive on-air snafus with professional cuteness - like the time Maggio's coughing fit forced her off the set; the same night, a studio light exploded with a loud bang, startling the bejeezus out of Oliveira.

In his new role, Oliveira is drawing on an earlier success running a television station in Brownsville which he and his partners took from bankrupt status to a #7 ranking in prime time in the mid 1980s. Meanwhile, Oliveira and his partners were plodding diligently toward securing a construction permit for KNVA through the Federal Communications Commission. No one expected the process to take 10 years. Oliveira and his partners, Mark Goldberg and the Goldberg family's Twenty First Century Corp. in Houston, had to fight tooth and nail to fend off 10 other competing applicants, an appeal by one of the losing parties, and the economic slump of the late 1980s. Those hurdles cleared, they finally pulled the deal together a year ago.

All of those delays were, in effect, a blessing in disguise, Oliveira acknowledges now. A new station on the block might not have survived in Austin five or six years ago. "Last year the economy started recovering and advertisers were coming back with a vengeance," he said. "We decided then it was a very, very viable option to proceed with our plans."

Oliveira worked out a license-management agreement with KXAN Channel 36, allowing the two stations to operate out of the same building on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. They share engineering and technical staff, but they each have their own sales force and compete for advertisers.

Still to come on KNVA is a lineup of community programming during times more desirable than the typical 3am slots. Liz Carpenter also has pitched the idea of a book show on KNVA with book reviews and interviews with local authors. Oliveira thinks the show is a good idea as long as there are plenty of visuals to hold viewers' attention.

"That's one of many possibilities that we're going to be looking at over the next few months," Oliveira said. "But let us build our market with what we're doing now. Within a couple of years, you'll be seeing a lot more local programming."

Will a newscast be in the lineup? Not likely, he says. "For a market this size, four news stations are quite enough. From a business standpoint, that's why we're doing what we're doing. While the other stations are fighting it out and spending a ton of money on hiring talent, we know there's going to be somebody out there who'll always watch us."

Family entertainment aside, Oliveira still misses the gritty business of news. "I miss the big stories, especially when they're of the caliber of the Oklahoma City bombing. But I've got a regular life now and I'm getting a lot of personal satisfaction out of being a husband and father," he says of his wife, Lourdes, and their three children.

"I miss the news," he says again. "But when I think of what I have now, I don't miss itthat much." - A.S.

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