Station Break

Noncompete news

Only days after AFTRA-backed legislation passed the Illinois legislature banning noncompete clauses for on-air talent in that state, North Carolina broadcasters beat back a similar bill there.

AFTRA was not involved in the North Carolina legislation, which had been introduced by State Senator Robert Rucho, who had expressed concern that the clauses reduce reporters and anchors to "indentured servants to the broadcasting industry." He specifically targeted restrictive clauses that prohibit talent from appearing in the market even after they've been terminated.

But Rucho's bill was defeated in the North Carolina Senate Commerce Committee by voice vote, the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters reported last week. Its president, Tom Allen, senior vice president of broadcasting at Capitol Broadcasting, said the bill's defeat was "a credit to the collective efforts of North Carolina broadcasters who worked tirelessly on this issue."

Happy ending in Hartford

A Hartford, Conn., photographer went from filming the story of a missing girl to providing a happy ending. WTNH-TV cameraman John "JP" Coleman was in Stonington, with main anchor Keith Kountz, preparing to go live at 11 p.m. with the story of missing 10-year-old Ingrid Chung. After shooting, Coleman was driving off to get some more footage when he saw a shadow moving in the woods. He rolled down his window and found that it was the missing girl, whom he brought to police. The child had apparently left school after recess. Although police did not suspect an abduction, they had brought dogs out for the search and gone door to door, concerned over the darkness and cold. Coleman found Chung at about 9:45 p.m.

Boston Wheeling and dealing

WSBK-TV Boston last week acquired the rights to long-running syndicated game show hits Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy after crosstown rival WHDH-TV voluntarily relinquished them.

Ed Goldman, who runs the Viacom duopoly of WSBK-TV and co-owned CBS O&O WBZ-TV there, said: "We're ecstatic to get these shows on ch. 38. This is a great opportunity for us. These two marquee shows add a lot of weight to this station's schedule. How much better does it get?" The duopoly will now have three games and a magazine in access since WBZ-TV slots Hollywood Squares and Entertainment Tonight in the key time period. King World said that Viacom stations get no break when picking up its shows (Viacom owns King World). "Our policy is to go with the highest bidder," a spokesman for the syndicator said.

Wheel and Jeopardy are consistently atop the syndicated ratings, but WHDH-TV, which has aired the shows for more than a decade, says that, over numerous ratings periods, the shows, particularly Jeopardy, have dropped in ratings and demos and, thus, made less money. "We initiated talks with King World indicating our interest to get out of our Wheel and Jeopardy commitment," said Mike Carson, vice president and general manager of WHDH-TV. Carson has talked about declining ratings in the local media as far back as 1998, when King World brought Jeopardy to Boston for two weeks. WHDH-TV will be filling the slots with Access Hollywood and Extra, which, it says, bring a younger demographic. Carson has also suggested that the station might drop its current 4:30 p.m. airing of Extra for an additional newscast.

No brotherly love

Another Philadelphia news helicopter last week shot what appeared to be a police beating of a suspect following a car chase, and the WTXF-TV footage has led to an internal police investigation of the incident. Last summer, a similar incident attracted national attention as the city was preparing for the Republican convention. That dramatic footage led to local stations' breaking WPVI-TV's embargo. WTXF-TV News Director John Mussoni said no other local station had used its tape. Police have asked for the station's footage, Mussoni said, and the station had offered, as of last week, only what had been shown on the air.

No nuns' story

WPIX(TV) New York's Mary Murphy was on the receiving end of this swing as she reported a story on bogus nuns' collecting money from commuters. Murphy was not injured. She trailed four women dressed as nuns and discovered that only one was legitimate.

All news is local. Contact Dan Trigoboff at (301) 260-0923, e-mail, or fax (413) 254-4133.