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Station Break

VP/GM McDaniel Exits WCCO-TV

After five years on the job and 15 with the company, Jan McDaniel is out as vice president and general manager of CBS-owned WCCO-TV Minneapolis. Rene LaSpina, fresh from a successful tenure at mid-market New York Times-owned WNEP-TV Scranton–Wilkes-Barre, Pa., replaces her.

Station staff said the move came as a surprise. McDaniel had come up through CBS as a newswriter and producer before running KAKE-TV Wichita, Kan. Although insiders say they have no doubt she was fired over the station's inability to meet ambitious profit levels, her departure was presented as a resignation. "There are a couple of ways to handle this kind of thing," said an admirer of McDaniel's. "You can go out angry or with grace. She left with grace." Typically, companies offer severance packages to smooth the transition, and sources say CBS did so.

McDaniel told station staffers Monday morning and was gone by the time CBS group head Fred Reynolds and LaSpina arrived at the station. LaSpina said she had never been in Minneapolis before but began her new job Tuesday. She called WCCO-TV "a legendary station," saying she was thrilled to be working for a network O&O.

LaSpina surprised her old station in August when she announced she was leaving following her successful run there. She would not comment on whether the WCCO-TV job was in place at the time.

Retrans truce in Washington

Thanks to a last-minute extension on the carriage deal between Cox Cable and Allbritton Communications, ABC's Monday Night Football
game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys will be carried to cable-connected homes in Fairfax County, Va. Given the 0-4 status of both teams, that could be either good news or bad news.

But the truce until at least the end of the month keeps the parties talking over retransmission rights and appears to halt, at least temporarily, the public relations battle between the broadcaster and the MSO for the hearts and minds of the 240,000-home Fairfax viewership. Each side postured so that other would be the one pulling the signals for WJLA-TV Washington and Allbritton-owned Newschannel 8.

Allbritton said it would not be acting to withdraw its signal, since it must be withdrawn as a matter of law when the retransmission rights end. Cox said it would not, could not pull the signal, due to inadequate notice, and appeared willing to face FCC sanctions. Cox has been down this road before, when Fox-owned WTTG-TV Washington was off the cable system for five days in a retransmission dispute.

Patriotic Differences

University of Missouri officials have distanced themselves from the policy at university-owned KOMU-TV Columbia, Mo., barring station employees from wearing patriotic symbols on air. That policy, implemented by News Director Stacey Woelfel, has been criticized by state officeholders, who have even threatened university budgets.

"MU deeply regrets that this policy has caused offense to KOMU-TV viewers and other citizens," said Chancellor Richard Wallace in a statement. "This was an action taken in the TV newsroom to assure editorial independence that did not in any way reflect a policy of the university."

The university's Board of Curators also weighed in last week, noting that its bylaws did not preclude such patriotic symbols and resolving that it "encourages administrators and supervisors to extend wide latitude" at the university regarding the wearing of patriotic symbols.

Woelfel said he understands the pressures faced—and acknowledged—by the academic leaders, and added that their positions won't affect his station's policy.

Belo doubles up

Belo last week completed the $5 million purchase of KSKN-TV Spokane, Wash., a WB-UPN affiliate that it had been operating under a local marketing agreement. The acquisition gives Belo a second duopoly, with CBS affiliate KREM-TV Spokane, in the Northwest. The company also owns KING-TV and KONG-TV Seattle, as well as KGW-TV Portland, Ore., KTVB-TV Boise, Idaho, and 24-hour cable news operation NorthWest Cable News.