What's happened to TV news networks?

There was a time not too long ago when you could turn on CNN Headline News - and often the regular CNN Channel - and get current news any time of the day or night. The same can be said of MSNBC and other news stations.

Now the channels seem to be saturated with specialty programming. Turn on one of the news networks and you might find a half-hour program on investing. Switch the channel and there will be a full hour on some major court trial. Another channel will have a half-hour segment on illegal poaching.

Headline News is seldom headlines, anymore. It's more analytical broadcasting, often with an opinioated slant.

Even the Weather Channel, which was known for it's "Eights on the Hour" local weather snippets rarely has the local weather on the eights.

It, too, has gone to general feature broadcasting instead of smaller weather segments. Now half-hour broadcasting includes such things as rescues in the Arctic or a major hurricane theoretically New York City.

Many of us miss the older programming, where we knew at the 50-minute mark of each hour on the Weather Channel we would get tropical storm reports and at 20 after the hour on the station we would get the five-day forecast.

Don't broadcasters know people are creatures of habit? Don't they realize that people will return when they know a program is on at the same time each day or each week? Do they not realize that when people turn on the TV and don't see what they're used to, they either will switch channels or turn the set off?

Granted, when a major story breaks, the news networks are all over it and pre-empt the talking heads. When there is a major weather story, such as a hurricane or blizzard, the Weather Channel stays on top of the coverage instead of its other programming.

Otherwise, the news channels and have become boring for the most part. Not everyone cared about watching the Zimmerman Trial but it seemed virtually every news channels had the live, hour upon hour coverage. It was so much better when abbreviated news segments were featured.

Sports networks are no different. They used to have more live sporting events on than they do now. Today we see so many panel discussions on sports that it actually appears that the participants run out of things to say. Then they get dramatic and emphasize various points with such vigor that you feel you better believe them because they know more than anyone else.

Reruns of baseball and football games are better than the nonsense many sports channels televise.

There are some afternoons when there are no live sports on the sports networks. Instead it is all shows featuring individuals giving their "expert" views on various topics.

While the news, weather, and sports networks are fodder for complaints, we won't even go into what has happened to many of the original music networks like MTV and CMT.

It really does seem there's nothing good on TV anymore.

At least the movie networks still show movies, the Cartoon Network still has cartoons, and children's channels are still dependable.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com