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truTV’s “In Session” Shuts Down

TruTV_6.23.gifBreaking: TVNewser has learned truTV’s ‘In Session’ daytime programming is shutting down its New York operations leaving as many as 65 staffers out of a job. Executives from Turner Broadcasting, which owns truTV, have been notifying employees of the change this afternoon. ‘In Session’ includes longtime anchors Jack Ford and Ashleigh Banfield, who, we’re told, are among the cuts.

The live daytime programming from truTV’s headquarters on Manhattan’s east side will cease in mid-November. At that point
Turner Broadcasting’s HLN in Atlanta will provide programming for truTV’s daytime hours. Primetime reality programming will continue. truTV was the 10th most watched cable network in Total Day last week, ahead of CNN and MSNBC. In primetime, truTV was ranked #19, also ahead of CNN and MSNBC.

“It’s really sad,” one longtime staffer tells TVNewser.

truTV began as CourtTV in 1991. It made its name with gavel-to-gavel coverage of trials across the country, most notably OJ Simpson’s double murder trial in 1994-95. Time Warner had a 25% stake in CourtTV when it launched. It bought full control in 2006 and re-branded the channel on Jan. 1, 2008.

> Update: Insiders tell us the number of positions eliminated in New York is around 100, with up to 70 jobs created in Atlanta.

> Update (2): We’re told 10 of the current field staffers will be kept on for trial coverage: four reporter/lawyers and six producers.

> More: Statement from Turner Broadcasting: Production of truTV’s IN SESSION trial coverage will shift from New York to HLN in Atlanta, effective Nov. 16, to leverage the unrivaled production capabilities and infrastructure of the CNN organization, which includes HLN. This move will result in some position elimination in New York and position growth in Atlanta, which we are currently addressing. There will be no interruption to IN SESSION’s programming schedule. We are also restructuring truTV’s marketing staff, which will include a reduction of some positions in New York.

• After the jump, the internal memo from truTV EVP Marc Juris and CNN Worldwide EVP Ken Jautz

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“I Will Never Forgive Him For His Cruelty and the Manner in Which he Decided to Dispose of Me”

ABanfield_2.10.jpgtruTV’s Ashleigh Banfield has some harsh words for a former boss in a profile in New Canaan – Darien Magazine. Banfield lives in Darien, CT with her husband and two children.

Banfield talks about her uneasy split several years ago with NBC News, after making a name for herself on MSNBC during and after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I begged for seventeen months to be let out of my contract. If they had no use for me, let’s just part ways amicably – no need for payouts, just a clean break. And Neal [Shapiro, NBC News president at the time] wouldn’t allow it. I don’t know what his rationale was – perhaps he thought I would take what I felt was a very strong brand, and others felt was a very strong brand, to another network and make a success of it. Maybe that’s why he chose to keep me in a warehouse. I will never forgive him for his cruelty and the manner in which he decided to dispose of me.”

Shapiro, who left NBC in 2005, responds: “I don’t recall events the same way Ashleigh does, but I am glad she has found personal and professional success and I wish her all the best.”

Banfield moved to CourtTV (now truTV) in 2005 and is the only non-lawyer anchoring on the network. Her on-air partner, former ABC and NBC anchor Jack Ford calls her “an absolute delight to work with” and says not being a lawyer works to her advantage. “She brings to the show the kind of curiosity a juror would bring,” he says.

“I know this is my lot,” Banfield says. “If I want to be successful in this business, I’m going to have to take it on the chin and cope with it. This business is not for the thin-skinned, and I don’t know that I have the thickest of skins.”

Lisa Bloom Leaving truTV

Lisa Bloom.jpg First On TVNewser: TVNewser has learned that Open Court anchor Lisa Bloom — whose show airs on truTV’s In Session daytime block — is leaving the network. No word yet on when her departure is effective.

TVNewser has reached out to truTV for comment.

> More: truTV has sent a statement to TVNewser, stating that Bloom “plans to move to Los Angeles to be closer to her family and to pursue a new chapter in her career, including book writing and reporting.” Her last day as Open Court anchor has not yet been determined.

The full statement, after the jump…

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Ashleigh Banfield Predicted to “Shine” in ’09

ABanfield_1.2.jpgThe NYPost has chosen truTV anchor Ashleigh Banfield as part of its “Five faces with something to look forward to” list.

Ashleigh Banfield was supposed to be the new (bespectacled) face of NBC way back in 2000 when – pretty much overnight – she went from afternoon anchor on MSNBC to the hottest pistol in TV news.

But it all fell apart as quickly as it had come together for her. There were reports she was difficult to work with and sulky.

She wandered in the desert (like Luke Skywalker) for a few years, married, had a couple of kids.

This year, the former MSNBC anchor is back on cable – where she started. Banfield kept the glasses and found new confidence. She joined TruTV (the old Court TV) as the only anchor without a law background – reinventing herself as a legal eagle.

Banfield is the only tvnewser on the list. Others include “Oprah’s health nut”, Dr. Mehmet Oz and new American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi.

The New CourtTV?

CourtTV_4.3.jpgFrom a TVNewser tipster: “I understand that there is a move afoot to develop a legal television network in place of CourtTV.”

Anybody know anything?

Earlier: CourtTV Adjourns

> More from an emailer: “I’ve heard it’s more than ‘afoot’…that it’s a web based gavel-to-gavel network claiming to program multiple trials at the same time; consumer info; caught on tape segments, etc. Former CourtTV people are involved (there are lots of them) and it sounds like the launch is late 3rd quarter early 4th quarter this year…OJ?”

Politan Leaves truTV

Politan_2.29.jpgMore changes to TruTV’s daytime lineup. Sources tell TVNewser yesterday was anchor Vinnie Politan‘s last day at the former CourtTV. Insiders tell us, newsroom staffers had been wearing red, white, and green bracelets with ‘Vin Strong’ printed on them to show their support for Politan.

Star Jones’ Show Canceled

Star_1.31.jpgAfter just five months on the air, Star Jones‘ self-titled program is going off the air. TVNewser has obtained an internal memo announcing the cancelation of the daytime show which airs at 3pmET on truTV. “Due to the rebranding and programming refocus of the network,” writes EVP & GM Marc Juris, “truTV and Star Jones Reynolds have mutually agreed to cease production of the Star Jones show.”

The show premiered August 20, 2007. The final program airs tomorrow. It will be replaced by Arrest & Trial. Jones will stay on as a contributing legal expert on the weekday In Session trial coverage.

Click continued to read the email from Juris…

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The Ups & Downs of Ashleigh Banfield

Banfield_1.10.jpgPageSix Magazine profiled truTV’s Ashleigh Banfield for this week’s issue. (sorry no link)

Titled “The Comeback Kid,” the story delves into the highs and lows of Banfield’s TV career: from local TV in her native Canada, to her move to the U.S. and a station in Dallas, to the often controversial time she spent at MSNBC & NBC News, which came to a head after she gave a speech in Kansas on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Looking around her office, she points out a framed poster that Kansas State had used to announce her now infamous speaking engagement. “I look at this as one of my proudest moments,” Ashleigh says. “I don’t regret the speech at all. It cost me enormously
professionally, but four years later I’m proud of it.”

Banfield also talks about being criticized by her colleagues at NBC and how Tom Brokaw came to defend her:

“For whatever reason, people will always be critical of their peers in this business. I rose very, very quickly, and I
think there were headlines [about me]…Thank God people like Brokaw exist and will stand up for the little guy. I applaud him to this day as my savior.”

Related: The interview with Ashleigh Banfield…

CourtTV Adjourns

CourtTVc_1231.jpgThe AP’s David Bauder writes, “…with the new year, Court TV (1991-2007) adjourns.” Tomorrow the channel “that burst into public consciousness with the O.J. Simpson trial and other big-name courtroom dramas in the 1990s becomes part of television history.”

CourtTVd_1231.jpgThe network, which is being renamed truTV, will maintain six hours of “legal-oriented material during the day” to be called “In Session.” Bauder writes that network execs consulted outside experts to find a new name, even holding an in-house contest for ideas. Some 5,000 suggestions came in.

Frank TV (now a sketch show on TBS) was one popular suggestion as was True Nation, “but truTV tested better with focus groups,” Bauder writes. Shutting Down

ctvnews.gifWith the re-branding of CourtTV to truTV less than two weeks away, some changes are already underway. The editor-in-chief of posted a letter to readers about the fate of the site. It is going away.

Now will sit in cyberspace, frozen and unchanging. The fact that the site will not continue does not diminish its accomplishments. Perhaps some day, years from now, someone will do a search on some trial or another, and up will pop a page from “What is this?” they’ll wonder. Then they’ll start reading, and think, “Jeez, this is pretty good. Who did this?” We know who did it. That is reward enough.