By Dan Trigoboff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/30/2001 8:00:00 PM
Sinclair Broadcasting last week pulled Politically Incorrect from the schedules of its ABC affiliates—it has seven, including top-25-market KDNL-TV St. Louis—to protest remarks by host Bill Maher regarding the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington.
Sinclair Vice President Mark Hyman said executives were unaware of Maher's remarks until they received viewer complaints. Maher had addressed the issue of terrorist cowardice, commenting that, "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."
Later Maher said his remarks were directed at politicians, not servicemen and women, and apologized to people "who took it wrong." Maher subsequently acknowledged that the remarks were ill-timed and could be seen as insensitive. ABC stood by Maher, saying it believed a forum was needed for the expression of diverse opinions.
Sinclair's Hyman said: "Our freedom of speech entitles us to air what we want."
Meanwhile, by late last week, Allbritton had restored Politically Incorrect to its late night slot on WJLA-TV Washington and Citadel Broadcasting was planning to restore it as well. Both had pulled it after Maher's WTC comments (see above). Citadel President Ray Cole said he'd discussed his station's pulling the show with Maher by phone, and found the comedian sincerely apologetic. Cole said Citadel executives were waiting to receive a taped message from Maher in which he acknowledges his hiatus from Citadel's stations, and offers a note of conciliation. If the message passes muster, Citadel planned to put Politically Incorrect back on the air.
Bill Peterson, general manager at WRAL-TV for just over two years, was let go last week after, according to a memo he sent his employees, his job was seen as superfluous. The station determined that it was management-heavy in the current light-advertising market and, Peterson said, his own job appeared to be redundant with Senior Vice President of broadcasting Tom Allen's.
Although Peterson told staff the timing wasn't great and that it was not a happy moment for him, station sources said he appeared relatively upbeat and that his manner was reassuring to the station's staff. Still, a staffer noted, in a time when people are concerned about their own jobs being eliminated, it's less than reassuring to see that even the boss is vulnerable.
Times for synergy
Synergy is at work around the clock in Los Angeles. Tribune-owned KTLA-TV is putting a camera in the newsroom of the co-owned Los Angeles Times. The move follows similar efforts by other Tribune-owned stations and newspapers. In Chicago, WGN-TV has a camera in the Tribune newsroom and WPIX(TV) New York has one in newly acquired Newsday's headquarters. The KTLA-TV camera will officially start rolling Oct. 31.
KTLA-TV News Director Jeff Wald says the station has been conducting interviews with Los Angeles Times reporters and editors since Tribune acquired the newspaper over a year ago. "It's a relationship that has been blossoming over the past year and a half or so and it's about to blossom even more," Wald says.
First W. Va. Stop: Clarksburg
The $20 million purchase of Clarksburg's WBOY-TV by West Virginia Media Holdings from Hearst-Argyle could be the beginning of a statewide group, the new owners of the 44-year-old station say. The top-rated NBC affiliate, sold by Hearst as it purchased WMUR–TV Manchester, N.H. (Boston), reaches nearly 200,000 households in the north-central West Virginia area.
The new company's owner, Bray Cary, said the purchase was "the company's first step in establishing a West Virginian-owned-and-managed media network in the state." Gary Bowden, with the station since 1973, continues as general manager.
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