Station Break

Moving South

A trio of stations in midsize Southern markets have made some unorthodox talent hires recently in an attempt to shake up their ratings. Jefferson Pilot CBS affiliate WBTV Charlotte, N.C., will position ex-tabloid host Maureen O'Boyle in an anchor chair this month. A Charlotte native, she has signed on to co-host the noon and 5 p.m. newscasts. She is an alumna of both Extra
and A Current Affair.

In Nashville, Tenn., Meredith's WSMV looks to make its weekends a family affair, pairing former Hard Copy
host Alan Frio with wife Terri Merryman at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. Frio moves in from Los Angeles. Merryman, who grew up in Tennessee, is also the station's health reporter. "Together, I think they will make a real connection with the community," GM Steve Ramsey says of the move.

Post-Newsweek CBS affiliate WKMG Orlando, Fla., hired former CBS network morning guy Mark McEwen to anchor its early-morning and noon newscasts. GM Henry Maldonado says he's looking for McEwen to "redefine" the station's third-ranked morning program—a tough assignment, given that WKMG typically attracts about one-fifth the audience of timeslot leader WFTV, the ABC station owned by Cox.

Nielsen Ups and Downs

New York—For the first time in a quarter century, San Francisco is not a top-five market. Boston moved up a notch to overtake the Bay Area in Nielsen's latest TV-household estimates. Ad buyers say they don't expect much of an impact, other than bragging rights. In the only other change among top-35 markets, Milwaukee displaced Cincinnati at No. 32.

Biggest upward movers among the top 75: Harrisburg, Pa., gained five spots to No. 42. Dayton, Ohio, moved up three positions to No. 56. Losers included Richmond, Va., which dropped three spots to No. 61, and Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, N.C., which moved down to No. 46 from 48.

Still hanging on to last place is tiny Glendive, Mont., with barely 5,000 TV households.

Sweeps Cheaters Busted

Pittsburgh—A Pennsylvania woman and her daughter were indicted late last month on charges they swindled WTAE out of nearly $100,000 by falsifying entry forms in the station's "Watch 4 Win More" sweeps contest. Court papers accuse the women of using their computers to design bogus entry forms after the station broadcast winning contest numbers during the May 2002 sweeps.

WTAE General Manager Rick Henry credits station employees with discovering the fraud and alerting authorities. The station, an ABC affiliate, is owned by Hearst-Argyle.

WFSB Keeps Its 'Plex in the City

Hartford, Conn.—Meredith's WFSB will construct its new $20 million digital complex inside Hartford's city limits after all. Station management had been negotiating for a suburban location before reaching a tentative agreement with the city last week.

Meredith will exchange its current property and $800,000 for a city-owned 3.4-acre site on Main Street. "We are delighted that we will remain a vibrant part of the core of downtown for decades to come," said GM Elden Hale.

WFSB's threat to move out of the city spurred Mayor Eddie Perez to assemble a task force to help it find a suitable in-town site. The station has maintained studios in downtown Hartford for half a century.

Food Fight!

Salt Lake City—What started as an annual sandwich-eating contest between a couple of rival high school football teams nearly got out of hand, and KUTV cameras caught it all on tape. The event outside the station's downtown studios was going smoothly when a few participants started squirting water at one another.

"Now we have a water fight. Now we have a food fight. Now we have a real fight. This is getting out of control," said an obviously agitated reporter David James during a noon live shot. James handed it back to the studio anchors while security crews broke up the brawl off-camera. No one was injured, but the respective schools suspended several players.

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