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Holiday music arriving soon on local radio

The Christmas carols are coming.

Every year, at least one radio station in the Triangle converts to playing all holiday tunes -- 24/7 of Rudolph, Feliz Navidad and White Christmas.

This year, WRAL-FM plans to make the switch on Nov. 26. That's the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday and treasured by eager retailers as the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

That's later than last year, and WRAL (101.5) might do it sooner if a rival radio station jumps in, said program director Barry Fox. In the meantime, WRAL started streaming Christmas music from its website this week.

Media giants extend contract negotiations

Officials with the Triangle's largest pay-TV provider and most-watched station need a little more time to hammer out a new contract.

Time Warner Cable's contract with Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting, owner of WRAL-TV, was set to expire June 30. But the two sides couldn't agree on terms by the deadline, so they extended their existing contract an extra 30 days.

If the two media titans can't reach a deal by the end of July, it could lead to programming interruptions for cable viewers. Time Warner Cable has about 2.1 million customers in the Carolinas, including 830,000 in its region that stretches from Raleigh to the coast.

"We've had a good relationship with Capitol for a long time and I'm sure we'll ultimately reach a fair agreement," said Time Warner Cable spokesman Keith Poston. "We just needed some more time."

Rush Limbaugh to switch Triangle radio stations

One of the first radio stations to broadcast Rush Limbaugh's talk show, WPTF AM-680, will be losing the conservative media icon after 21 years on the air.

Limbaugh's trademark in-your-face talk show will be moving to a competitor, WRDU FM-106.1, a country music station owned by media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications. Starting January 1, WRDU will switch to an all-talk format and feature a 9-hour non-stop marathon of conservative talk by Glenn Beck, Shawn Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

Curtis Media, the Raleigh-based company that owns WPTF, will fill the three hours vacated by Limbaugh with political talk that's more centrist and moderate, said president and chief operating officer Phil Zachary. Still, losing Limbaugh is a big deal, he said.

"We were there from the beginning, which makes this more painful," Zachary said. "We were there before Rush was arguably Rush."

Media General, parent of NBC 17, reports 'signs of strengthening'

Media General reported weaker third-quarter results for its North Carolina properties, which include NBC 17 in Raleigh and the Winston-Salem Journal.

The Richmond, Va.-based company this morning reported a total net loss of $62.5 million. But CEO Marshall Morton said he is "seeing signs of strengthening in advertiser spending.

"We believe that local and national advertiser spending patterns are firming somewhat, especially on the broadcast side," Morton said in a prepared statement. "Media General is well positioned to benefit from an economic recovery."

As with most newspaper publishers and broadcasters, the recession and slump in ad spending has taken its toll on Media General. The company has 770 fewer full-time employees this year than last. And by the end of 2009, a furlough program will have included 15 unpaid days off per employee, including four days in the fourth quarter.

NBC-17's president Leffler shifting to community radio

The general manager of television station NBC-17 since 2005 is stepping down to run 1360-WCHL, the community radio station in Chapel Hill.

Barry Leffler, left, will buy a minority stake in the radio station for now. Eventually, owner Jim Heavner plans to sell the whole thing to him.

Leffler will become WCHL's CEO and managing partner, with Heavner continuing as chairman.

"It is impossible for me to imagine a more capable successor than Barry Leffler, who brings a lifetime of broadcast experience, personal leadership, creativity and commitment to WCHL and this community," Heavner said, in a prepared statement.

Leffler, who lives in Chapel Hill, has worked for NBC for 14 years, with stints in Miami, London and New York.

"This presents us with enormous opportunities to develop integrated local media to create a new 'medium of record' for Chapel Hill-Carrboro and the growing surrounding areas," Leffler said.

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