Station Break

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

News Net Near

Bluefield-Beckley-Oak Hill, W.Va— With the addition last week of WVSX-TV, purchased from High Mountain Broadcasting Corp. for $6.4 million, sports-promoter-turned-broadcaster Albert B. "Bray" Cary is closer to the statewide news network he wants. "We cover 91% of the state," he says, noting that his four-station net lacks only the eastern panhandle of the state, near Northwest Maryland, some of which is part of the Washington market. And he's still looking for a station there.

Cary says completing the network will still take time and money, with about $8 million in capital expenditures so far and probably another $3 million to $4 million to go. The WVSX-TV facility is small and will require additional building, particularly a news department (it has never had news) networked with West Virginia Media Holdings. "This won't work everywhere," Cary says. "But, in West Virginia, the demos are similar; the interests are similar. News on a statewide basis is much more meaningful."

Once he "raises the bar on news in West Virginia," Cary says, the network will have to make money. An "aggressive" promotional campaign will begin in May.

WVAH-TV Is Back On-Air

Charleston-Huntington, W.Va— WVAH-TV has returned to the air following the collapse of its 1,500-foot tower—which had been the tallest structure in the state— during an ice storm Feb. 19. The station said it is using a standby antenna and 20,000-W transmitter from a temporary site on the WCHS-TV tower, at 900 feet. WCHS-TV is owned by Sinclair and has been programming WVAH-TV by agreement. Plans call for WVAH-TV to rebuild its tower at the former location.

WCPO-TV Wins Again

Cincinnati— Kentucky's Court of Appeals has affirmed verdicts in two defamation suits brought against WCPO-TV Cincinnati and won by the station. The suits were brought by a housing official and a real estate developer concerning a 1997 story about accusations that the City of Covington, Ky., housing director was favoring a real estate developer regarding federal loans.

The appeals court noted the trial judge's determination that reasonable jurors could not have found the broadcasts false, and never reached the issue of actual malice brought on appeal. Moreover, the court said, "we agree with the trial court that no reasonable fact-finder could conclude from the evidence that the media defendants failed to properly investigate [developer Esther] Johnson or the controversy," noting more than 50 interviews with developers, officials and others. Similar findings were made in Hodge's case, and the court cited other media as well as government inquiries looking into the issue.

Johnson also appealed the exclusion of evidence that the station's I-Team harassed her during its investigation, which, she said, would have impacted on the station's credibility. The appeals court found that those charges did not relate to whether the station knowingly made false statements, and the court noted that the plaintiffs did not take advantage of the opportunities given to tell their story.

Double Coverage in L.A.

Los Angeles— NBC-owned KNBC(TV) and Spanish-speaking sister station KVEA(TV) simultaneously broadcast the L.A. Marathon March 2, but in different languages. The two stations are merging operations in the remodeled KNBC building in Burbank. They plan a similar simultaneous broadcast of the Fiesta Broadway celebration of Cinco de Mayo in downtown Los Angeles April 27.

New News VP

Former RTNDA Chairman John Sears will run the news at Fox's Orlando, Fla., duopoly, WOFL(TV) and WRBW(TV). He joins as VP of news. Lena Sadiwski, who had been news director, will stay on in a different capacity, Sears said, with new responsibilities. Sears worked briefly at Fox's KPTV(TV) Portland, Ore., between the time the station changed from Chris-Craft to Fox ownership and the time it was swapped with Meredith to create duopolies for each group.