Station Break

Putting heat on noncompetes

North Carolina Republican State Senator Robert Rucho has proposed legislation that would restrict noncompete clauses in that state's broadcasting industry. "My concern," he says, "is that most of these individuals become indentured servants to the broadcasting industry. Broadcasters use their licenses to take advantage of the public airwaves to make a very good profit. There has to be a different standard" than in other businesses.

Rucho says his bill specifically targets restrictive clauses when the talent has been terminated but still can't work in the market. "It doesn't wipe out the noncompete," he says, but it would require compensation while the former employee sits out. Rucho rejects broadcaster arguments based on use of trade secrets. Many producers and salespeople not covered by such clauses, he says, know many more secrets.

Broadcasters, naturally, oppose the bill. The North Carolina Association of Broadcasters will lobby against it, and several individual station executives have also contacted the senator.

Lee Armstrong, vice president and general manager at Cox-owned WSOC-TV Charlotte, says, "Our concern is that broadcasters make a huge investment" in anchors and reporters, including marketing and research. "It can run hundreds of thousands of dollars. To have no protection against that person walking across the street for the same job is not fair." The noncompetes at issue, she says, don't prevent former employees from working, only from working on the air. Reporters and anchors under such clauses are free to work at other stations in behind-the-scenes capacities.

Saluting Samaritans

Former WOI(TV) Ames, Iowa, reporter Kimberly Arms Shirk, who was badly burned in 1997 when the mast on her news van touched a power line, is donating $20,000 for scholarships to students at a religious school near the site of her accident.

Students from the Des Moines Christian School pulled Shirk from the van after she was electrocuted and helped extinguish the fire that had engulfed her clothes and body. Shirk spent months hospitalized, including many weeks in a coma, and has had numerous surgeries to repair the damage. The scholarships, she said, were funded from the settlement she received last year in her lawsuit against ENG van equipment manufacturers.

The awards will go to winners of an essay contest on being good Samaritans. "These kids really saved my life," said Shirk. Some, she believes, even came to the accident scene while the ground was still charged with electricity and somehow escaped shock and burns. Several months after the accident, Shirk and her former colleague, David Bingham, who was also injured, participated in a ceremony honoring the students who had come to their aid. Bingham returned to work after the accident. Shirk worked briefly for KLKN Lincoln, Neb., where she now lives, but is now writing a book on her experiences.

Crack bust

Philadelphia stations broke into programming when a man armed with a hammer threatened to put another crack in the Liberty Bell. KYW was late to the story, despite its close proximity to the site, but managed to get some exclusive footage away from rival WPVI. At the scene, KYW producer Monica Avery found a man who had footage of the suspect being taken into police custody. The man said he had tried to sell the video to another station but its reporters weren't carrying cash. Avery took the man to the station, where News Director Melissa Klinzing quickly got some cash—reportedly $1,000—and paid for the tape.

Vitals unplugged

WBZ-TV Boston is bringing back its "Testing the Limits" report at the Boston Marathon, slated for today. Runner Allie Renna is wired with monitors that send back data that is translated into on-screen readouts. Wireless technology is provided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and FitSense Technology. Last year's story won an Associated Press award.


Last week's item on the injury to KPHO-TV Phoenix reporter Donna Rossi while covering the melee after the University of Arizona Wildcats' loss to Duke University in the NCAA basketball finals should have said the commotion took place in Tucson, outside the college's campus.