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Station Break

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

WFLA Protests to MLB

Tampa, Fla.— WFLA-TV last week protested to Major League Baseball and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that the team's PR director had threatened sportscaster J.P. Peterson.

The team and the station have been at odds since WFLA-TV aired a tape earlier this month—shot by WESH-TV Orlando, Fla.—that showed Devil Rays Manager Lou Piniella swearing at his team during a loss to the Houston Astros. The team says the tape was made in violation of arrangements between baseball and the media. WESH-TV News Director Ed Trauschke acknowledged that the camera may have been in a different place—near the dugout—during the spring-training game than it would be during the regular season but procedures in spring training are "looser" than in the regular season. The camera was not hidden, and nothing surreptitious done by his cameraman, he said.

WFLA-TV News Director Forrest Carr says the station did not make the tape or do anything unethical in obtaining it. It chose to run it because it was newsworthy. But, with the station's press credentials at apparent risk, Peterson and producer David Cook met with Devil Rays PR Director Rick Vaughn. Carr says Vaughn let loose with a string of profanities of his own, as well as a threat of bodily harm, while standing over Peterson. Carr called the actions "outrageous, unprofessional and unacceptable" and sought both an apology and assurances that the incident would not be repeated. Team officials could not be reached.

Vaughn would not comment on the accuracy of the account but acknowledged to BROADCASTING & CABLE that he had been frustrated and "acted in the heat of the moment." He maintained that the entire situation could have been avoided if the station "had shown better news judgment" and refrained from using the Piniella audio. Carr noted, however, that follow-up reports have shown a positive reaction among fans to Piniella's outburst.

Up and Out at Telemundo

Chicago— Two top anchors at Telemundo station WSNS(TV) have been given plum network assignments in a development that could undercut efforts to unionize the on-air staff there.

Anchors Norma Garcia and Victor Javier Solano have been among the most outspoken station staffers in their support of American Federation of Television and Radio Artists efforts to represent the eight eligible employees, who joined the NBC station group when Telemundo was purchased last year. But Garcia will now be the Houston-based national correspondent for the Telemundo group, and Solano will anchor at WNJU(TV) Newark, N.J., part of the No. 1 New York DMA. No one questions that the moves are advancements for both, but AFTRA suggested that the timing is suspicious, coming right after the election agreement and before the April 2 vote on whether AFTRA will represent the WSNS employees.

Attorney Lyle Rowen, who has been active in the effort to unionize WSNS, says it is "a classic union-avoidance technique and cuts the head off our biggest union support. This hurts our internal organizing, but we're still confident we're going to win."

Telemundo spokeswoman Diana Souza said there was no connection between the timing of the new jobs and the election and added that the assignments were to follow February sweeps.

New Mexico Broadcaster Remembered

Santa Fe, N.M.— New Mexico governors and other state leaders held a ceremony here to honor veteran political broadcaster Ernie Mills, who died at 76 last month after more than 40 years covering New Mexico politics. Gov. Bill Richardson and former Gov. David Cargo were among the dignitaries lauding the late KENW-TV Portales commentator, whose Dateline New Mexico and Report From Santa Fe were broadcast over radio and PBS stations around the state.

According to local reports, former Gov. Bruce King recalled Mills's role in negotiating the release of several prison guards being held hostage during a 1980 riot at the state penitentiary in which 33 inmates were killed. King said Mills helped avoid further bloodshed.

Newscast for Late Commuters

Atlanta— WXIA-TV is dropping its 5 p.m. news in favor of trying to corral Atlanta's late commuters with a 7 p.m. newscast beginning March 31. It will move hit syndicated talker Dr. Phil from 3 to 5 p.m. Its 5 p.m. news has ranked third of the three in the time period. Recent reports have shown Atlanta's commute to be a particularly rough one, with commercial growth in the suburbs causing more traffic snarls in more directions.