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Station Break

One Step From the Slammer?

Providence, R.I.—Executives at NBC-owned WJAR say they are "evaluating our options" after a Boston federal appeals court last week upheld a civil contempt order and fine against investigative reporter Jim Taricani.

In February 2001, a source whom Taricani declined to identify provided an undercover videotape of an aide to former Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci accepting a bribe from an informant. Both Cianci and the aide were later convicted on corruption charges and sent to prison.

Federal Judge Ernest Torres appointed a special prosecutor to figure out who provided the tape to Taricani. When the reporter refused to divulge his source, Torres found him in contempt and ordered Taricani to pay a fine of $1,000 a day until he fessed up.

The aggregate fine already exceeds $90,000. If Taricani continues to refuse to give up the source, the law provides for a criminal contempt charge that could send him to jail.

Neither Taricani nor station management is talking, but WJAR issued a statement in support of the reporter. "If courts can compel reporters to break their promise of confidentiality," the statement said, "many sources will withhold newsworthy information."

Readers of the Providence Journal
were divided on their support. Asked in an online poll whether Taricani should reveal his source, respondents were split 50-50.

You'd Think They'd Learn

Viewers of Motor City stations got an earful from Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, age 81, after his team unexpectedly won the National Basketball Association Championship. Davidson's post-victory speech, carried live by most stations, was peppered with expletives, including several references to bovine droppings. Given the FCC's recent crackdown on "obscene" broadcasts, it was enough to give TV news managers pause. Fox-owned WJBK anchor Huel Perkins apologized on-air, while Deborah Collura, news director of Post-Newsweek-owned WDIV, promised to "bleep out" the naughty language in subsequent broadcasts.

Election Season Winners

New York—Philadelphia TV stations are getting the most out of the President Bush and Sen. Kerry campaigns, at least in the early going. An analysis of political ad spending through May shows that the two candidates poured more than $3.6 million into the market, with Bush outspending Kerry better than 3-1.

Not far behind was Phoenix, where the two campaigns combined to spend just over $3 million on TV spots.

But the real battleground appeared to be in the upper Midwest. Both campaigns spent heavily in Minneapolis-St. Paul ($2.9 million), Detroit ($2.8 million) and Cleveland ($2.4 million).

Nielsen Monitor-Plus reported that, for the first five months of the year, the candidates bought spots totaling $63.7 million in 130 markets. That's about three times what Bush and former Vice President Al Gore spent during the same period in the 2000 election. Spot TV typically makes up about 90% of political ad spending.

Boston Mayor Seeks Chopper Waiver

Boston—Anticipating some of the city's worst traffic snarls ever, Mayor Thomas Menino is going to bat for Boston broadcasters, asking federal officials to permit news and traffic helicopters closer access to next month's Democratic National Convention.

Current rules would prohibit private aircraft within 30 miles of the Fleet Center during the event. Local stations would have to rely on a single police helicopter for traffic updates. Security concerns are expected to result in several road closures and detours, including a nightly shutdown of parts of Interstate 93.

Menino called airborne traffic reporting "the best source to help us alleviate some of the problems that we may have in the area" and pledged to press the Transportation Security Administration for a waiver.

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