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Station Break


Not long after he'd sent a news chopper and crews to cover a hostage standoff at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., last week, WCBS-TV New York Managing Editor Richard Bamberger was pulled into the story when the station got a call from a woman claiming to be a hostage. Suspect Patrick Arbelo, a legally blind recent graduate of the school described by a former roommate as a hermit, is accused of taking 28 people hostage in a classroom by claiming to have a bomb.

Bamberger used information he'd collected on the story to confirm that the caller was a hostage. He passed a note to the assignment desk, which alerted police. In more than a dozen calls over the next several hours, Bamberger and Arbelo communicated through the hostage, a student named Julie. At one point, Arbelo dictated a statement, described as rambling and anti-Semitic, that he wanted read over the air. Station management—WCBS-TV News Director Joel Cheatwood, Assistant News Director Michelle Murray and General Manager Tony Pettiti—decided not to air the statement; Bamberger was able to put Arbelo off whenever he brought it up.

Though Jewish, Bamberger said he was not put off by the statement. The overall situation was too intense, he said, and his concern was at the other end of the phone. "It was the most intense thing. I had no idea if something I said would cause him to hurt someone," he said. "I couldn't even tell you what was happening around me in the newsroom." The crisis ended with no one hurt. The bomb turned out to be fake.

LIN at Sunrise

LIN Television's takeover of the management of six Sunrise TV stations is expected to be in place by the end of the first quarter, LIN reported. The stations are not in LIN station markets, the company said, adding that no general managers have been let go.

The management agreement is the first step toward consolidating Dallas investment company Hicks Muse Tate & Furst's co-owned but separately operated TV groups, LIN Television and Sunrise Television. It's expected that the Sunrise stations will be completely folded into LIN later. "In effect, it's a deferred merger," LIN Television VP Paul Karpowicz said when the arrangement was announced.

Sunrise is in the process of selling off five North Dakota stations not managed by LIN. Robert N. Smith has resigned as CEO of Sunrise Television. His company, Smith Broadcasting, is managing the North Dakota stations until they are sold under a management-services agreement with Sunrise.

Red nose optional

For Bozo and WGN-TV, it's not the show that must go on, but the party. Although the legendary clown, who entertained children of all ages in cities across the country for more than 50 years, made his last appearance on his own WGN-TV Chicago show last summer, Chicago's Bozo Ball will continue—at least for this year.

WGN-TV canceled the show last year due to expanding competition from kid-oriented cable channels, but it hopes to continue the Bozo Ball, which has raised more than $3.5 million for charities in 12 years. Along with the last Bozo, Joey d'Auria, WGN-TV says, Bozo creator Larry Harmon himself may be at the Bozo ball for the first time.

Negotiations are continuing with Bozo rights-holder Harmon. Loss of the Bozo name would leave WGN-TV's charity effort with big shoes to fill.

Porn on hold

Utah PBS station KUED(TV) is delaying the broadcast of Frontline's documentary on pornography. GM Larry Smith said the station received its preview copy of American Porn
late and was concerned about its content. Contrary to local reports, Smith said, the Olympics were not a factor. He called the production "an admirable job with a difficult subject" and said he will run Frontline's edited version on March 9, with an accompanying discussion including local law enforcement and civil libertarians.