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Big Apple News Shifts

New York—WNBC News Director Barbara Johnson quit, two days before the end of the May sweeps, for "personal reasons." WNBC would not comment, but the buzz regarding her departure centers on lackluster ratings for key newscasts.

Though a market leader, WNBC showed slight declines at 5 and 6 p.m. in May. Its 11 p.m. newscast was up 7% the first three weeks of the sweeps. Once the top station in early morning, WNBC has recently fallen behind WABC. WNBC Station Manager Dan Forman, who brought Johnson over from WABC two years ago, will assume her duties.

Two Big Apple stations have changed top news managers within the past month. Fox-owned WNYW/WWOR dropped News Director Neil Goldstein just before May sweeps began.

Cox Expands Political Coverage

Atlanta—Cox TV's 15 stations are giving politicians free face time. The stations will dedicate additional time to debates and candidate interviews, run PSAs to encourage voter registration, and produce in-depth reports and analyses of local ballot issues. Candidates for governor and Congress in what Cox terms "significant races" will get the chance to record a five-minute segment, which stations can run during weekend newscasts. Cox isn't the first to award candidates free airtime. Belo Corp. started doing that in 1996.

Hola! L.A.

Los Angeles—Veteran broadcaster Robert Behar, former COO of Telemundo, is testing a new concept with the launch of the market's eighth Spanish-language station. KBEH will provide Mexican-American families with an "ongoing link" to their homeland. "It's the first channel committed to supporting Mexican-Americans in maintaining their language and traditions," he says.

KBEH won't offer novelas
, a prime time staple of its competitors. Instead, it will focus on family fare, offering about eight hours a day of children's shows and 30 hours a week of original programming produced in Mexico, such as talk shows, movies, and music shows. Behar plans to add locally produced news and entertainment programs later.

Wolf's Last Out?

WCBS dismissed veteran Warner Wolf last week, a Big Apple TV fixture for decades. He'll be replaced in July by KPRC Houston sportscaster Chris Wragge. The station has declined to comment on his hiring. The often outrageous Wolf, 66, had been on New York City TV screens since breaking in at WABC in 1976. He moved to WCBS in 1980, where he remained for 12 years before taking a job at WUSA in Washington. He returned to WCBS in 1997, anchoring both the 6 and the 11 p.m. sportscasts.

Wragge has anchored nightly sportscasts at Post-Newsweek's KPRC since 2000. He has appeared occasionally as a roving reporter for NBC Sports and was a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight
before moving to Houston.

Rx for WBZ: Dr Phil

Boston—CBS affiliate WBZ
is moving its 5 p.m. newscast to 4 p.m. and replacing it with Dr. Phil, a move that worked well for sister station KYW Philadelphia. Although General Manager Ed Goldman spins the decision as a way to give Dr. Phil
a better Boston time slot, the real reason is that WBZ's 5 p.m. show has consistently finished third behind WCVB and WHDH for most of the last 10 years. When KYW rescheduled Dr. Phil
to 5 p.m. for the May book, household ratings for its 6 p.m. newscast nearly doubled. The strong lead-in gave the station a shot at finishing second at 6 (behind WPVI) for the first time in more than a decade.


Minneapolis—With audiences and ad revenue becoming more fragmented, some TV stationsare raising their local profiles: Hubbard flagship KSTP and the Minneapolis Star Tribune
recently signed a deal to cross-promote and co-brand their Web sites. The TV station gets access to newspaper content; the paper gets access to KSTP's audience.

Dallas—Belo's WFAA, seeking to gain a foothold with a burgeoning Hispanic community, will trade news video with Univision station KUVN. Each will identify shared footage with the other's logos.