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Station Break

Family connections

Fourteen-year-old part-time WTSP(TV) Tampa, Fla., and St. Petersburg Times
film critic Billy Norris was in the middle of the late-night wars last week, courted by both NBC's Tonight Show With Jay Leno
and CBS's The Late Show With David Letterman.

Seeking video of the youthful critic, Leno
producers contacted Norris's editor for his phone number, according to the Times'
Eric Deggans. The editor's name? Gretchen Letterman—who mentioned the phone call to her brother, David. That Letterman jumped on the booking, and the Tampa teen critic appeared on his show last week.

Bogus bills

A former production manager at WHYY-TV Wilmington, Del., has been charged by federal authorities with involvement in a telemarketing-billing scam authorities call "shipping air." They said Harold M. Parsons approved fake invoices from a supply firm that totaled more than $200,000, in exchange for about $60,000 in payoffs. Parsons, who has since retired from the station, was one of 22 people and three companies indicted in alleged billing scams last week.

Reign ends at WHDH-TV

WCVB-TV Boston raided rival WHDH-TV Boston to win the services of 25-year WHDH-TV meteorologist Harvey Leonard. The popular Leonard signed a five-year deal and will begin in August, News Director Colleen Marren said during the NAB-RTNDA conference last week. WHDH-TV apparently had the option of matching the offer but did not. Leonard told reporters his friendship with WCVB-TV's Dick Albert and the chance to work with him were factors in the move.

Centenarian succumbs

The stress of a life in television may not appear to lend itself to longevity, but pioneer Michigan broadcaster Harold Gross was 100 when he died in his sleep last week. Already a 20-year radio veteran, Gross launched WJIM-TV—named for his son—in 1949. He would later note that, at the time, television was rare in markets the size of Lansing.

The station, now WLNS-TV and owned by Young Broadcasting, still operates out of the facility to which Gross moved it in 1949. The station brought nearly $50 million when he sold it in '83.

Open court

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Graves met with the media and other members of the judiciary in Jackson last week in an effort to improve relations. The dominant subject was cameras in the court, although Graves has said he doesn't want the meetings he plans around the state limited to that issue. Ultimately, he says, he hopes to improve public access and education regarding the courts. A report is expected in the fall.

Let's have the videotape

North Carolina TV stations last week faced lawyers' requests for videotape of a drug raid in Durham in February. TV stations typically object when asked to provide video that did not appear on the air. Attorneys for men arrested in the raid believe that the tapes will support their contention that the raids violated the defendants' constitutional rights. Judge Orlando F. Hudson has ordered WNCN(TV) Goldsboro, WTVD(TV) Durham, and WRAZ-TV, WRAL-TV and WLFL(TV) Raleigh to provide the tapes for his review, during or following a hearing scheduled for late last week. Actually, local stations said, only WTVD(TV) was invited on the raid and shot any footage. Defense lawyers say the inclusion of the media to tape the raid supports their claim that it was unconstitutional. WTVD is fighting the order and believes it is protected under the state's shield law from having to hand over the tape.

CBS re-ups in Hartford

A week after negotiations between CBS and Post-Newsweek stations ended with WJXT(TV) Jacksonville, Fla., going independent and the Jacksonville market without a CBS affiliate—at least temporarily—CBS has reached its 40th affiliate agreement in 19 months. CBS and Meredith-owned WFSB(TV) Hartford, Conn., agreed to a long-term deal in the No. 28 market.

Anchor stays put

WHDH-TV Boston lost meteorologist Harvey Leonard last week (see item at left) but did re-sign longtime anchor Randy Price to a new five-year contract. Price will continue to co-anchor the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts with Caterina Bandini.