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Station Break

KTVK denied tape

Arizona's Supreme Court has let stand an appeals court ruling allowing police to withhold emergency-phone-call tapes and release only transcripts. KTVK(TV) Phoenix has been fighting for access to emergency tapes for two years, but News Director Dennis O'Neill said following the ruling last week that there seemed to be nowhere left to go, with the state's highest court having the final say on interpreting state law.

KTVK sued Mesa police to obtain an audiotape of a call by a woman suspected of child abuse, but police released only a transcript. Police said releasing the tape would harm the defendant's right to a fair trial and would violate the victim's privacy. Arizona courts have concluded privacy interests of individuals outweigh public interest in hearing the tape.

"In our view," said O'Neill, "the judges have made new law in Arizona. The station had requested the tape of a 911 call made after a 16-month-old child fell from his crib." The call was made by a woman later arrested in the incident. Applying an "alternative means" test, state courts concluded that release of a transcript of the call satisfied the state's Public Records Act.

"The public-records law was created to help determine whether or not the government is withholding something," O'Neill said. "Now the government can determine whether there's something the people need to know. It's very disappointing."

Two Wichita stations start local news show

Two Wichita, Kan., TV stations have begun a half-hour local newsmagazine that will air four times a year. The show has been put together by the stations' production staff, since neither station does local news.

"It's not your typical newsmagazine," says Kent Cornish, who runs KSAS-TV and KSCC(TV). "We've done public-affairs shows here, and we decided to make this one more entertaining."

Among the segments in the opening show are a look at the local Wichita Museum of Ancient Treasures, 117-year-old local business Cero's Candies, and what the stations call a "tongue-in-cheek" profile of minor-league Wichita Wranglers' mascot, Wilbur T. Wrangler—a horse—done in VH1 Behind the Music style.

It's raining money

WBZ-TV Boston will work with the city's Museum of Science "to explore the mystery and uncertainty of weather forecasting in an unprecedented science-education program," the station said. A $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation is expected to produce weather-education project "Predicting the Future: The Science and Technology of Weather Forecasting." The museum will host an interactive exhibit on weather forecasting featuring WBZ-TV weather staffers and led by meteorologist Mish Michaels.

Candidates lose

Three Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates failed last week to get the courts to force six media organizations—including WHDH-TV, WBZ-TV, WCVB-TV and WGBH-TV, all Boston—to include them in a debate. Libertarian candidate Carla Howell, Green Party's Jill Stein and independent Barbara Johnson asked state courts in Middlesex and Worcester counties to ban the debate unless they were allowed to participate.

The media organizations have concluded that, based on polls, only Democrat Shannon P. O'Brien and Republican Mitt Romney have a chance of winning. While the excluded candidates maintain that the debate amounts to a media endorsement of the two major candidates, the media argued that the First Amendment prohibits the government from determining editorial decisions. Middlesex Superior Court Judge Linda Giles held that the facilitation of a debate is not a campaign contribution, to which state campaign-finance laws apply.

KCBS News on the move

Viacom's CBS Los Angeles duopoly will move its KCBS-TV noon newscast to 11 a.m. so as not to go head to head with partner KCAL(TV). KCAL's ratings have been the stronger at noon. KCBS-TV will now be competing at 11 a.m. with local-news heavies KNBC(TV) and KABC-TV. Moreover, KCAL will add an evening hour of news and sports on Saturday.