Station Break

Jacksonville jump

This week marks major changes in the landscape of Jacksonville, Fla., TV with the switch in CBS affiliation from Post-Newsweek's WJXT(TV) to Clear Channel's WTEV-TV. Although the network and WJXT had had a successful partnership, negotiations broke down, largely over the issue of network compensation. WJXT becomes an independent this week, boosting its local news and syndicated programming to fill the spots that had carried CBS programs and sports.

Compensated or not, Clear Channel was only too happy for WTEV-TV, which had been a UPN affiliate, to become a CBS affiliate and has been welcomed by numerous network personalities, including Dan Rather, who was featured on a promotional special last week and is scheduled to visit the station in the fall.

Clear Channel also runs Fox affiliate WAWS there and, with UPN programming pushed to later hours, now hosts programming from three networks. Clear Channel, which owns or operates 11 radio stations in the market and more than a thousand billboards, has turned its promotional muscle toward publicizing the affiliate switch.

Stations don't get the picture

A Florida law, passed after the death last year of race-car driver Dale Earnhardt and restricting public access to autopsy photos, was upheld by a Fort Lauderdale judge over a challenge brought by Florida media. An earlier challenge from a University of Florida student newspaper brought a similar result last year and is making its way through Florida appeals courts. Attorneys for the media group opposing the law indicated that this case will be appealed as well.

The law passed at the instigation of the Earnhardt family after newspapers wanted to examine autopsy photos of Earnhardt to see whether safety additions might have affected the outcome of his Daytona 500 crash. "This law has weakened the watchdog function of the media," says Forrest Carr, news director for WFLA-TV Tampa, one of the law's challengers.

The law, he says, was part of an emotional reaction to Earnhardt's death. "No one wants Dale Earnhardt's autopsy photos on the Internet. But questions need to be asked regarding some deaths. This solution prevents the media from ever investigating a suspicious death. The public now has to hope they can trust the government, with no way to verify what it's doing."

Rae Returns

Angela Rae's return to Miami will spark a change at WFOR-TV's early-morning news when she takes over the 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. news. She returned to the station this spring after a little less than two years at co-owned WCBS-TV New York. Her return, said WFOR-TV GM Steve Mauldin, provided "an opportunity to do something spectacular." The revamped morning news, the station said, "will include the latest business updates, consumer tips, health reports and entertainment news."

On the move

  • Gary Stokes, most recently VP/GM at NBC-owned WVTM-TV Birmingham, Ala., will start next week as news director at WAVY-TV Portsmouth, Va. He has a history with the station, having been news director there in 1994-95 and an executive producer in 1989-91.
  • Laura Diaz, a popular anchor and reporter at KABC-TV Los Angeles for nearly two decades, is leaving the station for local rival KCBS-TV. Diaz has been anchoring KABC-TV's 5 and 11 p.m. newscasts. The announcement that she is leaving was made first at KABC-TV. Her start date has not been announced.
  • KNBC(TV) Los Angeles has named John Stehlin weekend weathercaster, replacing Paul Johnson, who will continue to serve as weekday traffic reporter and fill-in weathercaster. Stehlin will anchor weather reports for the afternoon and 11 p.m. weekend editions ofKNBC News. Stehlin most recently was weekday weathercaster at CBS's KYW-TV Philadelphia.
  • Troy McGuire, most recently news director at Meredith's KTVN(TV) Reno,Nev., has been named to head news operations at Meredith's Portland, Ore. duopoly KPTV(TV)-KPDX(TV). He replaces both KPDX News Director Dan Acklen and KPTV News Director John Sears. Sears is a past chairman of the Radio-Television News Directors Association.
  • WBBM-TV Chicago named Mike Wilken engineering manager, replacing Peter Sockett, who was promoted to director of engineering and operations for the station. Wilken has been with the station since 1985, when he was a freelancer. He became a full-time employee three years later. Recently, he was co-designer and planner in the master-control rebuild.