General Manager of Leading Station in San Francisco to Return to Chicago
Joe Ahern has been named President and General Manager of WBBM-TV Chicago, it was announced today by Fred Reynolds, President of the Viacom Television Stations Group, and Dennis Swanson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Ahern, most recently president and general manager of KGO-TV San Francisco, the top station in the nation's fifth largest market, will oversee all operations at WBBM-TV starting Aug. 12 and will report to Swanson.
Prior to running KGO-TV San Francisco, Ahern was president and general manager of WLS-TV Chicago, where he worked with Swanson to launch "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
"We are very excited to add Joe to our team," said Reynolds. "He is one of the most experienced and talented broadcasters in the business. Bringing Joe back to Chicago to run WBBM-TV is another huge coup for us as this move will significantly increase our competitive position in this very important market. I look forward to Joe's contributions as we continue to build our unparalleled group of television stations to even greater prominence in the communities that they serve."
"I've known and watched Joe throughout his career, and he has emerged one of the brightest, most gifted station executives in the industry," said Swanson. "During a time of historic upheaval in the San Francisco television market, his station remained remarkably strong and stable, and has continued to grow despite the increased competition. In Chicago, WLS-TV remained the top-rated station under his leadership for more than a decade, which is no easy feat considering it's one of the country's most competitive markets. He was also instrumental in launching 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' when he worked with me at WLS-TV as vice president of sales. Joe shares my belief in localism and community outreach, and I'm thrilled to have the chance to work with him again."
At WBBM-TV, Ahern replaces Walt DeHaven, whose new general manager assignment will be announced shortly.
"Under Walt's leadership WBBM-TV made great strides in the Chicago market, including the hiring of 'Good Morning America's' Antonio Mora as the lead anchor," Reynolds said. "He has given us a great foundation to build on, and we plan to take advantage of that to the fullest. Dennis and I place a high value on the contributions Walt has made to our group, and we look forward to his continued strong leadership within our stable of Viacom stations."
Ahern has served as president and general manager of KGO for the past four years, during which the station was honored with the prestigious 2001 RTNDA award for "Best News Broadcast in Northern California" and named one of the "10 Stations that Do It Right" by Mediaweek magazine. While at KGO, Ahern made community activism a top priority, initiating programs like Education 2000 and The Promise of Education (a compilation of news coverage, special programming, promotions and public service announcements highlighting education in the Bay Area). He also spearheaded The San Francisco Grand Prix, a 125-mile bike race headed by Lance Armstrong through the city streets. The race was broadcast live on KGO. Ahern has won many awards for his commitment to the San Francisco community while president of the station.
Previously, Ahern was senior vice president and managing director of broadcasting for Walt Disney Television International, based in London. He was responsible for the development of the Disney Channels in Spain, Italy and Germany, as well as managing Disney's television operations in the U.K. and France.
Ahern was president and general manager of WLS-TV Chicago from 1985-1997, during which the station remained the No. 1 local news choice in the market, as well as a reputation for being one of the strongest, best-run stations in the country. Ahern was instrumental in launching "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which has become the most successful syndicated talkshow in U.S. television history, while he was at WLS-TV.
Before becoming a station manager, Ahern worked in a variety of sales management positions at WLS-TV, WXYZ-TV Detroit and WABC-TV New York. He got his start at WPVI-TV Philadelphia.