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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

Hacking disrupts Sinclair's Cincinnati TV stations for a third week

John Kiesewetter
Baltimore based Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation's second-largest TV group, operates WKRC-TV, CW Cincinnati and WSTR-TV.

The Big Bang Theory, People's Court, Steve Wilkos, The Doctors, Judge Jerry and MyNetworkTV shows still off the air in Cincinnati.

UPDATE 3 P.M. TUESDAY, NOV. 2: Cincinnati viewers are still without many daytime syndicated shows and MyNetworkTV primetime programs as WKRC-TV, WSTR-TV and Cincinnati's CW continue to deal with a cyber attack for a third week.

Weekday syndicated shows on WSTR-TV (Channel 64) and the CW Cincinnati (Channel 12.2) haven't aired here since hackers paralyzed computer servers at Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation's second-largest TV station operator, on Sunday, Oct. 17.

For a third week, WKRC-TV has been unable to air its two-hour Good Morning Cincinnati newscast 7-9 a.m. weekdays on Channel 64. Instead, the Local 12 news was broadcast for a half hour (7-7:30 a.m.).

At 9 a.m., Local 12 simulcasts Good Morning Cincinnati on Channel 12 and on Channel 64, instead of airing The People's Court. For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, videos from Sinclair's TBD digital network have aired on Channels 64 and 12.2 instead of Divorce Court, Andy Griffith repeats, The Doctors, Judge Mathis, Couple's Court, Jerry Springer, Hot Bench, Maury and other syndicated shows.

On Monday, the cyber attack again prevented the local Sinclair stations from airing Steve Wilkos, Jay Leno's new You Bet Your Life and reruns of black-ish and Big Bang Theory. Instead late afternoon and evening viewers have seen Wipeout and Fear Factor.

However, WKRC-TV has been able to resume Dr. Phil (3 p.m.) Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight (7-8 p.m.) on Channel 12.

WKRC-TV staffer Greg Hansen wrote on Facebook late last week that viewers "don’t know is how bad the hack job was. We are lucky to be on the air. Some things may not be working for weeks yet."

ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, OCT. 26: WKRC-TV, WSTR-TV and Cincinnati's CW continue to deal for a second week with the paralyzing hack of Sinclair Broadcast Group's corporate computer servers.

Dr. Phil, Family Feud, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, The People's Court, Steve Wilkos, Maury, The Doctors, Nick Cannon, Jay Leno's new You Bet Your Life, Judge Mathis, Judge Jerry and syndicated reruns of Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, black-ish, Young Sheldon and Seinfeld are still off the air on WKRC-TV (Channel 12), CW Cincinnati (Channel 12.2) and WSTR-TV (Channel 64) since a cyber attack Sunday, Oct. 17 on Sinclair, the nation's second-largest TV station operator.

Bloomberg attributed the hack to "one of the most infamousRussian cybergangs, called Evil Corp."

As of Tuesday morning, Oct. 26, viewers could watch Good Morning Cincinnati on Channel 12 as usual, 4:30-7 a.m. and 9-10 a.m. But during CBS Mornings (7-9 a.m. on Channel 12), only a half hour of Good Morning Cincinnati has aired on Channel 64 at 7 a.m., followed by Sinclair's The National Desk simulcast with Channel 12.2.

Also Tuesday, for the first time in 10 days, Good Morning Cincinnati was streaming live on the Local 12 app, anchor Sheila Gray announced this morning.

In primetime Monday night, MyNetworkTV's Law & Order: SVU reruns were unavailable while CW shows aired 8-10 p.m. on Channel 12.2.

Sinclair, based in suburban Baltimore, has said that "certain servers and workstations in its environment were encrypted with ransomware,and that certain office and operational networks were disrupted. Data also was taken from the company’s network."

Bob Herzog, WKRC-TV Good Morning Cincinnati anchor, said in a Facebook post the attack knocked out email, phones and "the software we use for putting newscasts together." The cyber attack also disabled the news ticker and other graphics.

Syndicated programs on Channels 12, 12.2 and 64 were replaced with Fear Factor, Wipeout and funny video shows such as Animals Unscripted, Life On The Edge, The Pet Collective and Fail Factory from Sinclair's TBD digital network broadcast here on Channel 64.4.

WKRC-TV chief meteorologist John Gumm said on Facebookthat "everything, including all video and scripts for newscasts and all programming which airs on our stations is run by networked computers across the country. All of these computer systems were attacked and don’t work anymore. There’s no easy way to fix them."

Sinclair owns or programs 185 television stations in 86 markets, including Cincinnati and Dayton's WKEF-TV (Channel 22) and WRGT-TV (Channel 45); 21 regional sports network brands, including Bally Sports Ohio, and the national Stadium sports channel and Tennis Channel. It also delivers content over the STIRR and NewsOn digital and streaming platforms.

Herzog, Gumm and traffic reporter Jen Dalton praised the hardworking Local 12 engineers, IT staffers and other employees for getting newscasts on the air.

"Only through the Herculean/MacGyver-ish efforts and ingenuity of the many fine people here at Local 12 have we been able to keep putting newscasts on the air," Herzog said. "These are folks who you never see on TV. And they are amazing."

Dalton gave "credit to the people behind the sceneswho have figured out ways to wire things up to even get us on the air! We apologize that things aren't all fixed yet and appreciate your patience," she wrote on Facebook last week. "This is the first time something of this magnitude has happened to this company so I know they are doing the best they can to get everything back. We appreciate you watching and for your patience!"

Gumm wanted viewers to know that "tremendous efforts have been put forth for us just to get any news on the air at all. Some brilliant people have come up with ways to do things which just blow my mind. Our behind-the-scenes team in Cincinnati is crazy good at adapting to adversity and is leading the charge across the nation in developing new workflows and methods to deal with this issue and do things while our systems are otherwise paralyzed."

Local 12 staffers "don’t know when things will go back to normal," he said. "Massive efforts are being made to replace the systems impacted. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Again, the equipment we use is specialized and you can’t just run up to MicroCenter to replace it."

"We are all frustrated and saddened by what has taken place, because we know how it impacts our viewers. So we really appreciate your support and that you are sticking with us," Gumm said. "Rest assured, we are working diligently behind the scenes to fix the damage that was caused. But it’s just going to take time, because this was a big attack."

Gumm concluded by saying all Americans should be alarmed that a foreign adversary could disable TV stations across the country.

"What happened to us could happen to any company and I personally believe it will continue to happen with more frequency in the years ahead – perhaps even to more media companies. It’s difficult to prevent. Most companies will keep it quiet when they are attacked, but we did not have that option due to the very public nature of our business. All that said, we should all be frightened that alleged foreign adversaries could take down TV stations in the U.S. What else are they going to take down next? This should be disturbing to all of us."

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.