The best local TV channel has gone dark. Earlier this week the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that WWTD, Channel 49, has ceased broadcasting after the majority owner of the channel sold its lease to Albritton Communications. “WUFO-TV” had been using the channel, and the change left founder Michael Gravino to decide whether to keep the station going till November 1, running its mix of UFO-conference footage, NASA conspiracy fodder, and other tinfoil-y fare through Halloween. Ultimately he decided to pull the plug on both the channel and its Web site.
“It made no economic sense to stay on,” says Gravino.
Though Gravino’s ambition to create a national network of conspiracy-and-aliens programming is now sidelined, he’s proud of what he’s accomplished since going on the air last November. He says that of the 8,600 hours of airtime that WUFO filled, a third of it was direct testimony from people who sighted aliens, making it what he calls the longest sustained UFO disclosure effort ever. Gravino doesn’t have hard numbers on viewership, and notes that the channel’s weak signal didn’t help encourage more people to (ahem) furiously fiddle with their rabbit ears. Also potentially problematic was WUFO’s stew-like mix of programming. “We ran it like a jukebox,” he says. “We never had a schedule, nobody knew what was coming on next.” But, he adds, “we got a lot of content out to people.”
The WUFO Web site, Gravino says, may come back soon: “We’re doing a little video for a legacy site,” he says. As for whether his next project will be WUFO-like, that, like so many blurry cigar-shaped objects, is up in the air.
“We fought the good fight for disclosure,” he says. “We’ll see what’s next.”