Back in the Stone Age of television, local stations originated a lot more entertainment programming than today, from morning kiddie shows to afternoon rock'n'roll dance parties. Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue started off as local talk-show hosts, too. But network and syndicated programs have pretty much wiped the local flavor out of TV broadcasting, with the exception of news.

Now, Barry Diller, the man who invented the Fox TV network, wants to bring it back. Diller told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published today that he hopes to turn the 11 UHF stations he owns through his Silver King Communications into the video equivalent of "a city magazine or alternative newspaper."

Diller was cagey about specific types of local programs, but the Journal speculated they might include talent shows and high school football games. About two-thirds of the stations' content would be produced in their home markets, which are all major cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.

The stations currently broadcast the Home Shopping Network, which Diller is in the process of acquiring. To make the deal work, he'd have to find more cable systems to pick up HSN to make up for the loss of audience now seeing the network on Silver King stations.

After leaving Fox in 1992, Diller ran QVC, the other TV shopping network. He first tried and failed to merge QVC with HSN, then tried to merge the company with Paramount and, later, CBS. In February of last year, he sold out of QVC and in August, bought control of Silver King.

TV types watch Diller's moves closely, and his talk about going local as the wave of the future could have a big impact. "Another generic programming service," he said "is hopeless."

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