AFTRA Fore!Goes Boycott
Hartford, Conn.—The American Federation of Radio and Television Artists changed its mind about boycotting a WFSB(TV)-sponsored charity golf tournament last week, AFTRA said, after discussions with the head of the kids' camp that benefits from the event. The on-air talent union had directed its members to avoid the tournament to protest the station's final offer in ongoing bargaining.
AFTRA New England Director Tom Higgins said Kids Camp President Reggie Hales made a convincing entreaty on behalf of the facility, which serves underprivileged children. The charity had issued an emotional letter critical of the proposed AFTRA boycott and the damage it might do to the camp's fundraising, calling specifically on the station's local celebrities to reconsider.
The station also made a specific request prior to AFTRA's 11th-hour change of mind, informing those on-air staffers scheduled to work during the tournament that they were obligated contractually to work regardless of the union's position. AFTRA plans to protest that directive with the National Labor Relations Board as an infringement on its members' bargaining rights, although it advised them to comply. The station denies the union's contention and said the message was simply a reminder of the obligations of some staffers.
Despite AFTRA's reversal, sources at the tournament said one of the biggest names scheduled to attend—Entertainment Tonight's Bob Goen—did not appear. Those sources said Goen arrived for the tournament the night before after taping in New York but left before AFTRA changed its mind about the boycott. AFTRA said it had no official contact with Goen, and executives at Entertainment Tonight had no comment.
Sports Anchor Dies
New York—Sean Kimerling, 37, sports anchor for WPIX(TV), died of complications from testicular cancer Tuesday at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. "We will miss him," said WPIX News Director Karen Scott, who hired him at the station six years ago. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family." Major League Baseball's New York Mets, which Kimerling had covered, held a moment of silence before Tuesday night's game. Kimerling is survived by his parents, a brother and sister.
Ex-KMBC-TV Engineer Arrested
Kansas City, Mo.—Federal authorities have arrested a former KMBC-TV engineer and charged him with diverting about $1.5 million in station funds into a private account. Jerry Dixon, who was terminated at the Hearst-Argyle-owned station late last year, has been charged with wire fraud. The investigation into his alleged activities began with Hearst station officials, the company said.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Dixon obtained electronic equipment and supplies for his own company and, using stolen blank invoices, charged them to Hearst-Argyle.
KMBC General Manager Wayne Godsey said the station became suspicious of Dixon last fall. "The monetary amount of the criminal misconduct is not material to the financial condition of the station," he added.
Oakland, Calif.—KTVU(TV) Business Editor Brian Banmiller took back a $1,000 contribution to the Arnold Schwarzenegger campaign after news executives there convinced him that the gift had the appearance of conflict. Banmiller said his wife's eagerness to meet the bodybuilder-turned movie star-turned political candidate was a factor in his making the contribution for an event near his hometown.
"We don't have a formal written policy," said KTVU News Director Ed Chapuis, "although we've been working on it for the past couple of months. That's something a lot of news organizations need to consider. We don't believe a journalist should be involved in support of a political candidate."
Banmiller's station has been in the forefront of California political coverage, having co-sponsored the well-received debate the week before in which all the major candidates—except Schwarzenegger—appeared.
On the Street
WMAQ-TV is planning Chicago's first street-side studio. Located on Michigan Ave. in the heart of the city, the facility, shown here in a rendering that includes its planned ticker, will be used for the NBC-owned station's morning and midday newscasts. It's also expected to be used by NBC's Today show on occasion.
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