Station Break


Judge approves airing of tape

WLOS-TV Asheville, N.C., aired portions of a videotape taken surreptitiously at a nursing home. The airing came after a judge ruled that blocking the broadcast would violate free speech rights.

Following a court battle, the station was able to air part of a videotape it had taken to uncover troubling conditions at an area nursing facility. Reporter Amy Davis had been contacted by a current and former employee and had entered the home with a hand-held camera about midnight, May 2, and filmed scenes that indicated patient neglect.

The owners of the home went to court to enjoin the station, arguing that airing the tape—which it said showed some patients with exposed genitalia—would violate the patients' rights to privacy and cause irreparable harm.

Judge Earl Fowler held that the news media had a constitutional right to air the tape, although he did criticize the station for delaying notification of authorities regarding conditions at the home—a charge the station denies. State officials have ordered remedial measures.

Gauntlet thrown in Bay Area battle

KICU-TV San Jose, the new partner—with Oakland's KTVU(TV)—in Cox Broadcasting's Bay Area duopoly, says its new look and newly acquired syndication lineup, which includes Just Shoot Me,
will make it the market's top independent. That's shooting at quite a target, considering that in January the market is adding a huge independent when current NBC affiliate KRON-TV surrenders its affiliation to San Jose's KNTV(TV).

The Bay Area is already arguably the nation's most dynamic market due to its high-level players and affiliation drama (B&C, April 16) and now adds a significant independent competitor. Long a top performer, KRON-TV owner Young Broadcasting will bring to the table an unprecedented strength in local news for a new independent, while KICU(TV) is building from its more traditional identification with local sports. In it's announcement of programming changes, it noted that it is re-identifying itself as "Action 36," following the leads of Cox stations in Charlotte, N.C., and Orlando, Fla..

Doctor is in; news is out

To make room for the newly syndicated Dr. Phil, KNBC-TV Los Angeles GM Paula Madison decided to cancel the station's nearly 20-year-old 4 p.m. hour newscast in September 2002. All the late afternoon newscasts in L.A. had been dropping significantly in ratings over the past decade. Now, two of the Big Three have dropped the newscasts altogether. KCBS-TV, which relaunched its 4 p.m. newscast in 1999 directed at women, now airs Judge Judy
and has won better numbers. KABC-TV has also lost viewers at 4 p.m. but will now be alone with news in the time slot.

Steel takes PR post

News Director Bob Steel, whose KATV(TV) Little Rock newscasts have won nearly every sweeps period in his seven-year tenure, has decided to move into public relations. Steel will become vice president and director of public relations at the agency Stone & Ward.

Local reports cited speculation that Steel was forced out, which Steel categorically denied. "In March, there might have been a shred of truth to it," he said, jokingly. "We lost a share point. The boss [GM Dale Nicholson] was not happy in March. But we roared back and won the May book."

AP scraps its national awards

Associated Press will not be presenting national broadcasting awards at the Radio-Television News Directors Association convention in Nashville next month. AP says its decision to drop the awards was made in order to re-emphasize the regional awards from which the national winners had been drawn. A national AP award has been considered among the more prestigious awards for journalists, and the awards dinner held with RTNDA has typically drawn major luminaries from broadcast journalism, including last year's guest speaker, 60 Minutes
creator Don Hewitt.