Station Break

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Washington—TV stations that accept anti-Bush ad spots paid for by are aiding and abetting illegal activity—and run the risk of losing their licenses. That was the implied threat of a letter the Republican National Committee sent to 250 TV stations on March 5. The letter contends that is using "soft money," a violation of recent campaign-finance–reform laws, to underwrite ads that pillory Bush for the nation's record deficit and other policies. But stations aren't buying the RNC argument, and neither is

Three of the nation's top broadcast groups, including Viacom, NBC, and Tribune, dispute the RNC's interpretation of their legal obligations. "It has never been considered the provenance of the broadcasters to enforce the campaign-finance laws," says Tribune general counsel Chuck Sennet. Leave that to the Federal Election Commission.

Viacom and NBC agree, indicating that some stations in their groups had accepted some of the ads. The RNC hasn't taken its gripe to the feds, but a spokeswoman says its "leaving its options open."

WNBC 4.2, Where are You?

New York—WNBCquietly launched a second channel in its DTV spectrum two weeks ago, slugged WNBC-DT 4.2. It's a hodgepodge of rerun newscast material and locally produced programming cycled in a 24-hour loop updated twice daily. Unless you're an early high-def adapter, though, good luck finding it.

There are no ads yet, and it's not on cable. Viewers who have an HDTV set and the requisite digital receiver can see it (probably not well in Manhattan) on DTV channel 28. "It's a definite work in progress," says a station spokeswoman.

The View
Is Great In New York

Call it the Big Applecart upset. In the just completed February sweeps at 11 a.m., the Barbara Walters-produced gab-o-rama, The View, on WABC topped perennial time-period winner The Price Is Right
on WCBS in New York. The talk show was up 4% to a 4.8 household rating and 15 share, while Price, with its seemingly ageless host Bob Barker, plummeted 15% to a 4.1/13.

New York market watchers say The View's ratings were boosted by recent addition Elizabeth Hasselbeck (above). Barker's slump also enabled WABC's noon news to knock WCBS's out of first place. That's a tough pill, because it was the only news time slot in which WCBS beat all comers.

Cozen Exits KDKA/WNPA

Pittsburgh—Gary Cozen, VP/GM of Viacom's KDKA Pittsburgh and co-owned WNPA (UPN), has resigned after 11 years with the station. The decision was characterized as "mutual." Until a successor is hired, department heads will report to Viacom station group chief Fred Reynolds and second-in-command Dennis Swanson. That tandem has been installing new GMs and other top station executives throughout the group since Swanson came on board in July 2002.

While KDKA continues as market leader, there is pressure to grow the business in a market that has been shrinking. The Cozen announcement couldn't have come at a more chaotic time for the station. Last week, Viacom yanked it from EchoStar DBS service DISH network after the two sides failed to come to a carriage deal.

WCPO Scandal

Cincinnati—The Cincinnati TV news market had to contend with an ugly story about one of its own last week. Veteran WCPO reporter Stephen Hill was indicted on 12 counts of sex abuse involving minors he had contact with through a local mentoring program. Hill has been with the station since 1989.

In a statement about the case last week, the station said Hill is "on leave" pending police investigations as well as its own investigation. WCPO says it is "aggressively" pursuing the Hill case as a news story. Its Web site is keeping up with the local papers, reporting that police found a videotape showing Hill having sex with the underage teens.