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COLUMN

Happytown

A budgetary Sharpie blots out the Smurfs in the Villages, UCF takes over Orlando (or at least it should), the Casey Anthony trial ties up valuable talking-head resources and, hey, Jon Huntsman, welcome to our closet!

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 And we won't even get into the whole DPAC thing - OK, yes we will - in which UCF constructed a state-of-the-art performing-arts center/concert hall on campus while Orlando still muddles its way toward a late June groundbreaking date, shakily financed with letters of credit from rich uncles.

 And now UCF is going to own the public airwaves, too - well, at least a license for them. On May 26, the school's Board of Trustees voted unanimously to have its TV station take on the role of flagship PBS station in the wake of the news that longtime local PBS member station WMFE-TV was selling its license to an out-of-town Christian broadcaster.

 We're thrilled - thrilled - that someone's stepped in to assume that role, and we're certain that there's probably no one better equipped in the city than UCF to do the job. But, did you notice that the city never so much as weighed in on the situation? Never bothered to try to come up with a plan to make sure the Orlando market wasn't left without some form of public television.

 So, someday in the not-too-distant future, fellow city dwellers, don't be surprised if you look up from your iPhones and find there's nothing moving down Orange Avenue anymore except for lizards, barflies and stray tumbleweeds. Because, while Orlando obsesses over the arts-free albatross that is DPAC, everyone else will have moved on over to the east side, to the unincorporated town of UCF.

As you well know from the gigabytes of streamed courtroom footage now seeping into your nightmares, the Casey Anthony trial is in full swing and the TV news outlets are in feast mode after three years of salivating. Across from the Orange County courthouse at the makeshift "media compound" (which the Orlando Sentinel has mapped out in detail on its website), tent-enclosed studios on 12-foot platforms have been erected, ostensibly for the sake of having the imposing Orange County Courthouse building as a backdrop for the reports emanating from the dirt lot news kingdom morning, noon and night.

Since we knew this was a big moment for local TV in Orlando (and since we caught a little of the fever ourselves and started our own Basket Casey blog at orlandoweekly.com), we called three local TV stations - WKMG Channel 6, WFTV Channel 9 and Central Florida News 13 - to see what kind of muscle they were putting behind their Casey crush. Ciarra Luster, web editor for Channel 6, says that her channel has hired not one, but two legal analysts to dissect the proceedings of the day on the evening newscast, and that she and her managing editor are "writing almost exclusively" about the case. This includes Luster's own personal stream of Casey-centric Tweets such as: "Casey Anthony is spending an awful lot of time coiffing her hairtoday as the lunch break ends."

WFTV's Dave Sirak took a slightly more serious tack on the matter, mentioning that there are up to 20 Channel 9 staffers working on the case at any time. He says the station has spent months "meticulously" designing a video archiving system that will let them revisit the reams of tape, say, in the year 2018, so they can instantly locate defense attorney José Baez dropping the "Caylee drowned" bomb at 1:20 p.m. on May 24, 2011.

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