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Station Break

Fox swings ax

WFTC(TV) Minneapolis General Manager Steve Spendlove and News Director Jon Fischer were shown the door after the station, formerly owned by Clear Channel, changed to Fox ownership Oct. 1. A day later, Stu Swartz, longtime head of Fox-owned KMSP-TV there, was let go and replaced by Carol Rueppel, previously general manager at Fox O&O WITI-TV Milwaukee. Rueppel will also oversee local ad-sales and marketing efforts for Minneapolis's Fox Regional Sports Net. Swartz had been with the station 38 years, 19 as GM.

Fox acquired KMSP-TV in July, and insiders say the company hopes to move WFTC's programming and possibly its Fox affiliation from the UHF ch. 29 slot to KMSP's ch. 9, currently affiliated with UPN. Fox swapped its KMOL-TV San Antonio and KTVX-TV Salt Lake City to create the Minneapolis duopoly.

Synergy swaps

At a time when programmers are trying to avoid references in entertainment programming to terrorism, war and fire, WRC-TV Washington had an additional concern: tornadoes. NBC, which owns the station, had scheduled the high-tech thriller Twister
only a few days after a tornado killed two sisters in nearby Maryland.

The station scrapped the movie and didn't look far to fill the gap. It simulcast MSNBC news special 24 Hours at Ground Zero, and NBC-owned Access Hollywood. "Once the decision was made, we decided to look within NBC programming," said station spokeswoman Angela Owens. "We had not been using MSNBC on our air prior to Sept. 11. Since then, MSNBC has become familiar to our viewers."

More meters

Nielsen launched two metered markets—Richmond, Va., and Dayton, Ohio—last week, bringing the number to 53, covering 68% of U.S. TV households.

To start, 300 homes in the Richmond-Petersburg area will be metered, providing overnight information on what is watched and when. Meters are frequently sought by the stations with the most to gain from new methods of reporting. Still, Don Richards, general manager at Richmond's top-rated WWBT(TV), said that, although "we didn't initiate bringing meters in, we've embraced them. I think it will substantiate our No. 1 position."

Scripps has a Hart

Jim Hart, who had announced his retirement as head of Scripps Television in the spring, has been tapped by the company to step in at WPTV(TV) West Palm Beach, Fla., following the exit of Bob Jordan. Hart will serve as interim station head while the group searches for a replacement. Insiders say he'll try to improve morale and employee relations.

Sources say that much of the staff became alienated from management in recent years and there was infighting among managers, a climate that may have created an opportunity for NABET: Technicians two weeks ago voted for representation. The station reportedly may be facing charges of sexual harassment and age discrimination from former employees.

Citadel OKs Maher

After a week of negotiation with Bill Maher, Citadel Communications put his show Politically Incorrect
back on its stations last week.

Citadel took the show off nearly two weeks ago over remarks by Maher in which he disagreed with the characterization of the terrorists who crashed the planes in New York and Washington as cowards. Citadel had planned to put the show back on earlier but rejected a taped explanation/ apology Maher had submitted, Citadel Chairman Phil Lombardo said, adding that Maher, in turn, rejected a suggested script provided by Citadel. Tapes received last week were accepted by the company. In a recent statement, Maher says his statements were "insensitive, ill-timed and, thus, inappropriate." He added that, "by doing what I have always done here, I may have unintentionally added to the national trauma, and I am sincerely sorry about it."

One viewer particularly pleased with the reinstatement was Maher fan Kris Moorman, of Ames, Iowa, an activist by profession. She phoned show, network and Citadel officials and spent 25 minutes making her case to Citadel President Ray Coles. "I told him he'd have a big fight on his hands if he didn't put the show back on. He said he'd have one no matter what he did."