Local news' sense of self-importance on full display
Action News is a local television newscast format in the United States. It was conceived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at WFIL-TV (now WPVI-TV) by news director Mel Kampmann in 1970 as a response to the "Eyewitness News" format used on rival station KYW-TV. At this time, WFIL-TV was said to be "#4 in a three-station market."
The main difference between Action News and Eyewitness News was that the former was far more tightly formatted. Time limits were set on packages—for instance, a reporter package could be no longer than 90 seconds. This difference enabled the station to cover more stories than its competitors. Another key difference was the focus on the surrounding Philadelphia suburban areas—a response to the movement of residents from the city to the suburbs. Finally, WPVI placed more emphasis on young talent—while WCAU-TV and KYW-TV used older, respected news anchors such as Vince Leonard, Tom Snyder, and John Facenda, WPVI used a young Larry Kane as their top anchor. Later, the station would add the very popular Jim O'Brien as its main weathercaster.
The format quickly took off, and after going back and forth with KYW for first place, WPVI took the lead in 1977 and has held it ever since. Capital Cities Communications, WPVI's owner at the time, took the format to most of its other stations.
One of the major development stations for WPVI's Action News was its Capital Cities sister station, WKBW-TV in Buffalo, New York. Under the leadership of news director Irv Weinstein, who had developed his own similar format under the name Eyewitness News (and before that, Pulse Beat News and Rock and Roll Radio News), WKBW developed much of the talent that WPVI would later hire to boost them to #1 in the market; anchor Jim Gardner (replacing Larry Kane when he moved to WABC in New York), weatherman Dave Roberts, and iconic voice-over artist Jeff Kaye are the three highest-profile WPVI personalities to have come from WKBW.
WPIX in New York City, an independent station at the time, picked up the Action News concept (and music) successfully for its 10 p.m. newscast. The newscast won numerous awards, but the station never approached the ratings of longtime leader WNEW-TV (now WNYW).
Sister stations WFTS-TV and KSHB-TV are the first in the country to identify themselves with the Action News branding all day with no station number.
Today, Action News is usually nothing more than a name, since its innovations have been incorporated into newscasts across the country. The name is found on fewer stations than Eyewitness News. Even WPVI, which continues to use the name Action News, has modified its news presentation to one more closely resembling Eyewitness News on KYW-TV.
WFIL adopted the Action News format in 1970, along with a brass band theme written by a student at Temple University. The [entire] theme was offered through the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, as a single sided 45 RPM record for about $.25. Two years later, the station (under its new call sign WPVI) replaced the "Action News Theme" with Al Ham's well-known "Move Closer to Your World".
Unlike most stations, WPVI still uses this theme after four decades, and the theme has arguably become as much a part of the Philadelphia consciousness as the Rocky theme. This was proven in 1996 when the station replaced it with a fuller, orchestral rendition of the same theme performed by the London Philharmonic. Viewer outcry was so great that the station dropped the more thunderous and authoritative version within five days. WPVI has made numerous remasters of the theme to keep the sound fresh and to make it sound less dated. The theme has the unique distinction of being probably the only news theme to be offered as a ringtone, which WPVI offers at no charge, and is linked here  and below.
Action News was innovative in many ways, including the first 6 & 11 newscast anchored solely by a woman (Diana Robinson and then Jacqui Mullen). Diana Robinson was the first African-American female news anchor in American television. WPVI opens its broadcasts with a rapid montage featuring scenes of Philadelphia-area activities, reinforcing the "Action" brand. The scenes are rotated at the official start of every season to reflect the current season; for example, Phillies, NASCAR, CART AND DIRT and other spring footage starts showing on the open on March 21, and Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Flyers, and 76ers autumn footage starts on September 23, while the Mummers Parade and other winter footage is shown from December 21 to March 21.
Although "Move Closer to Your World" is strongly associated with the Action News format by Philadelphians and many others, many stations that have used the "Action News" name actually chose to use other pieces of music for their newscasts. Conversely, stations that use "Move Closer to Your World" do not necessarily use the "Action News" name or format either. WNEP-TV in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania used the original version for many years before switching to a modern variation which only partially resembles the original.