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Fired Station News Director Sues Univision Over Termination

Jorge Mettey, a former news director at Univision’s Los Angeles station KMEX-TV, is suing his former employer, claiming wrongful termination of employment.

The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 17 on Mettey’s behalf by Santa Ana, Calif.-based law offices of Federico Castelan Sayre, seeks a trial jury and demands payment of damages for alleged wrongful termination “interference with prospective economic advantage.”

Mettey claims his 2007 dismissal was a result of his opposition to sell content in the station’s local newscasts. Mettey complaint claims that Univision's alleged sale of news content "consisted of various companies and/or individuals purchasing time during an actual news broadcast in which the purchasing entity appeared to be giving an interview of newsworthy material to a news-reporter," although it does not give specific examples.

By doing so, Mettey alleges that Univision was allowing companies to do inadvertent advertisement by showing their logos in the background of an interview or mentioning a company's name to millions of television viewers even though the story may not have been news worthy."

Mettey was promoted in 2002 to lead the news operations of Univision’s Los Angeles’ flagship station KMEX-TV (channel 34), and was terminated in early 2007, almost immediately after Univision was taken private by a group of investors led by Haim Saban.

According to a 2007 Los Angeles Timesarticle, Univision had embarked on an internal investigation of Mettey for alleged breach of ethics during news coverage. But in an interview with Multichannel News, Mettey said he was not given that as a reason for termination.

Mettey, who was making $250,000 a year, also said he declined an offer of “several thousand dollars” as severance payment by Univision, in order to move forward with his plans to sue his former employer.

Univision, through a spokesperson, acknowledged the existence of the suit, but said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the former Univision executive claims that “his refusal to allow for the sale of the news content created a friction between himself and the management at Univision,” something he believes was one of the main reasons why he was terminated.

During his five-year tenure at KMEX, Mettey was charged with supervising the department’s strategic planning, overseeing editorial content for all newscasts and supervise all news personnel, including news reporters and anchors. Prior to that, he was news director for Univision’s KTVW-TV in Phoenix, where he and his team received nine Emmys in several categories in 2001. Altogether, Mettey worked at Univision for a total of 12 years.

The lawsuit was filed and served to Univision on the same day the media company released third quarter results, showing strong ratings growth for the period, but a decline in net revenue of 2.4%, compared to the same period the year before.