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WJXT and CBS part company

CBS is in discussions with Clear Channel Communications about affiliating with the network in Jacksonville, Fla. The network's current affiliate, Post-Newsweek's WJXT(TV), and CBS are breaking off their 53-year relationship.

After failing to come to terms on a new affiliate deal, Post-Newsweek President Alan Frank said WJXT will go independent this summer. He said the station will double its news output to 50-plus hours a week and launch a 10 p.m. newscast to take on the market's only other newscast in that time period, Clear Channel Fox affiliate WAWS-TV.

Clear Channel operates a duopoly in the market, with UPN affiliate WTEV-TV. UPN, of course, is co-owned with CBS. Susan Adams Loyd, vice president and general manager of both Clear Channel stations in Jacksonville, confirmed that the talks with CBS.

Post-Newsweek and CBS have been trying to come to terms in Jacksonville for several years. The affiliation agreement expired a year ago, and the parties agreed to a one-year extension, hoping to use the time to hammer out a long-term deal.

But they failed. Frank's position is that, while CBS acknowledged that WJXT has been one of CBS's best-performing affiliates (it over-indexed network audience levels by a lot in most dayparts), the network failed to offer proper rewards and incentives. The network wanted to eliminate compensation completely; it paid "under $2 million" (minus a $300,000 contribution to help pay for the National Football League rights) over the past year.

Frank said the network's proposed program-preemption caps and program clearance levels were unacceptable. "I know [Viacom President] Mel [Karmazin] woke up one day and just decided things were going to be different, but WJXT ranks in many instances number one in the nation in the audience they deliver to CBS," Frank said. "And, if the network doesn't want to pay anything for that, the station will go independent, be able to sell 40% more inventory, and be as good as or better off financially in the long run. It will be like TV used to be. We'll be like real broadcasters."

The station stockpiled syndicated product in anticipation of the move.

Clear Channel's Adams Loyd called Frank's decision a "gutsy move." As she and her team continue their dialogue with CBS, they will be very mindful that both Clear Channel stations in the market are "very successful and profitable." She doesn't want an affiliation agreement that would jeopardize that.

"We would love the opportunity" that CBS affords, Adams Loyd says, including CBS coverage of the hometown NFL team, the Jaguars.

CBS Affiliate Relations President Peter Schruth tipped his hat to WJXT "one of our strongest affiliates for a long time." He said the network's offer was "really good. We tried real hard to sign them up again. So, that's life."