Tampa, Fla.—WFTS(TV) investigative reporter Mike Mason defends a report that made three Tampa police officers mad enough that they sued the station. "My investigation is solid. I stand by every element of my report," he says. His May 2003 investigative report "Bad Cops, Big Promotions" identified police officers, including the ones filing suit, that had been promoted despite job performances that included reprimands, warnings and even an arrest. The station's investigative team has won the Florida AP award for investigative reporting each of the past two years. Mark Herdman, attorney for the three officers, refused to comment on the suits.
Washington—ABC affiliate WJLA-TV has signed ABC sportscaster and veteran Washington broadcaster Tim Brant to a multi-year contract to head up its news department as VP of sports. His first day will be Jan. 5.
Brant replaces Renee Knott as anchor of the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. sportscasts. Given Brant's other obligations for ABC Sports, including college football and Wide World of Sports, and his work for Raycom on ACC basketball games, station GM Chris Pike expects that his will not be a traditional Monday-Friday stint. The station will accommodate Brant's busy schedule, including having him anchor from wherever he might be. Negotiations are ongoing with Knott to remain. Knott was described by one station source as a "huge asset," and would be lead anchor when Brant was out of pocket.
It is just the latest high-profile hire for the station, which over the past several years has recruited anchor Maureen Bunyan and veteran meteorologist Doug Hill from crosstown WUSA-TV and most recently Leon Harris from CNN. The station has been lagging its competitors in most local-news ratings categories, but Pike calls his news crew "a formidable team and one we'll be proud to hang our hat on."
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Brant, who was sports director for the station for four years before joining ABC Sports in 1982.
New York—Veteran WNBC(TV) sports anchor Len Berman, whose credits include hosting New York City Marathon coverage, has gotten a marathon contract extension at the station. In a business where they often wrap your sandwiches in road maps, Berman, a native New Yorker, has been re-upped through 2010. He has anchored sports at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. since 1986, as well as being a familiar presence during NBC Olympic coverage. WCBS-TV had reportedly been knocking on Berman's door.
Pittsburgh—It is once more into the programming breech for noncommercial WQED(TV), one of the public broadcasting service's principal suppliers. The station is staying close to home to produce The War That Made America, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War.
The four-hour, $10.8 million production is a partnership between the station and French and Indian War Inc., a public-private partnership organizing the anniversary celebration, in part to establish a new tourist destination in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The drama/documentary will be shot in HDTV for a fall 2005 debut. It is currently in preproduction, with production set to start in April. In the interests of verisimilitude, a boot camp of sorts will be held in the spring to whip the soldier actors into faux-fighting shape.
Minneapolis-St. Paul—The TV fireplace is heating up. Hardly had the ink dried on our story about WPIX(TV) New York's virtual hearth plans (Station Break, Dec. 15), when we got word from Hubbard's KSTC-TV that it was throwing its own video Yule log on the fire, a first for the three-year-old station. Its new take is that, instead of "canned holiday music," it will feature a lineup of Minnesota musical artists to accompany its video, which we're told is of the promotion director's fireplace. The log will burn from 7 p.m. Christmas Eve to 3 p.m. Christmas Day, spot-free except for a 15-second billboard at the top and bottom of the hour for sponsor Kemp's, which bills itself as "the official milk of Santa." As if all good boys and girls didn't know that.