Preparing to say nay to Eye

CBS's Jacksonville affil, WJXT, considers turning independent

With affiliation talks stalled over network compensation, Post-Newsweek is prepared to take its Jacksonville, Fla., CBS affiliate WJXT(TV) independent this summer if a deal isn't done.

When the affiliation agreement ran out, it was renewed only for a year rather than long term. And TV insiders said the station was "buying up more syndicated products than they've got time periods." Many shows eyed by other stations had already been locked up by WJXT.

After the station purchased new strips like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Dr. Phil
and Texas Justice
and the new Pyramid, "we were surprised they renewed their current shows, like Frasier, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, Maury, and Sally," said a market-based local programming executive. "We thought they were cleaning house. They've got four access shows now. They could drop CBS News and still have one left for 8 o'clock."

Post-Newsweek President Alan Frank acknowledged to BROADCASTING & CABLE that the move to go independent is under consideration. He said the difference between the parties is over compensation and acknowledged that the station has "bought more programming than in recent years. But we haven't crossed any Rubicon. It's not like we bought a hundred shows. We may well stay with the network, and that would be our preference."

Frank said that any difficulties in negotiating the Jacksonville deal have no impact on any other agreement, including its other CBS affiliate, WKMG-TV Orlando, Fla., which has years to go on its current deal.

CBS officials had not returned calls by press time. But the fact that an important group is considering abandoning its network affiliation—even in the No. 53 DMA—demonstrates the deterioration in the relationship between stations and networks.

As a CBS affiliate, the station has been the top-rated station in its market from sign-on to sign-off for years and among the strongest CBS affiliates. But, while an independent is not likely to draw the same audience with syndicated programming as with network, an independent station doesn't have to share prime time and other inventory with a network.

"Alan is a brilliant programming guy," said a broadcasting executive. "If anyone could make it work, it's Alan."

Frank is also one of the leading figures in the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance. He testified on Capitol Hill earlier this year on behalf of the 600 ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates that had joined to demand that the FCC look into alleged network abuses.

Chief among those charged was that NBC interfered with the sale of KRON-TV San Francisco by threatening to strip its affiliation from any broadcaster that outbid NBC.


The hard way

In Jacksonville, WJXT is leaving CBS behind but says, with the help of news and Kelsey Grammer, it can be just as profitable