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Lawsuits

Networks Petition Supreme Court in Aereo Fight

aereoMajor television networks including CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox have petitioned the Supreme Court to review their case against streaming television service Aereo, CNET reports.

The rapidly-expanding Aereo, which is now available in more than 25 markets across the country, charges $12 a month to watch live or recorded programming on computers or mobile devices. In April, networks’ efforts to shut down Aereo were dealt a major blow when the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the service could continue to operate. Earlier this week, Aereo scored another legal victory against Boston ABC affiliate WCVB.

As CNET points out, the Supreme Court hears less than one percent of the 10,000 petitions it receives each year.

It’s a Draw: Aereo Wins One Battle Loses Another in WCVB Suit

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A federal judge in Massachusetts has denied Hearst owned Boston ABC affiliate WCVB its motion for a preliminary injunction in its suit against Aereo.

However, the court also denied Aereo’s motion to transfer the case to New York, likely in hopes of getting a more favorable ruling.

“After considering the relevant factors, the Court finds that a preliminary injunction is unwarranted,” ruled Judge Nathaniel Gorton in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. “Hearst has not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits nor the requisite irreparable harm and therefore it is not entitled to that ‘extraordinary and drastic remedy.’” Read more

WUSA Anchor Seeks Dismissal From Suit Over Alleged School Scam

JC-HAYWARDJC Hayward, the WUSA anchor and vice president for media outreach being investigated for mismanagement of funds at a district charter school, has asked to be removed from the case.

Last week, Hayward was named in a civil suit alleging officials at the Options Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. had siphoned off millions of dollars from the school into their own private companies. Hayward was chairman of the school’s board of trustees at the time of the alleged wrongdoing.

According to The Washington Post, Hayward’s lawyer filed papers Wednesday with a D.C. Superior Court Judge to remove Hayward from the case saying the anchor for the Washington, D.C. CBS affiliate “not only did not benefit financially from the alleged scheme but was entirely unaware of its existence.”

WUSA reports Hayward’s filing doesn’t address “the District claim that JC herself incorporated one of the companies that allegedly benefited from the insider deals.”

No criminal charges have been filed yet. Hayward was suspended from WUSA last week pending further investigation.

Judge Clears Ex-KMOV Anchor Larry Conners to Work in St. Louis Radio, But Not Television

conners_newA judge has ruled that former KMOV anchor Larry Conners can work in St. Louis radio but not television, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Conners was fired from the St. Louis CBS affiliate after claiming the IRS was targeting him because of a tense 2012 interview with President Obama. His KMOV contract included a non-compete clause that prevents him from working at another TV or radio station in St. Louis for a year. Conners subsequently filed an age discrimination suit against KMOV.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Circuit Judge Kristine Allen Kerr removed the word “radio” from the non-compete clause:

Kerr said she was not convinced KMOV would risk losing viewers or ratings from radio competition. However, Kerr said KMOV’s “interests in protecting its television viewer base, ratings and advertising revenue are legitimate.”

The judge also found KMOV had the right to fire Conners “for cause” and did not breach Conners’ contract. The judge also said she found no evidence KMOV fired Conners because of his age.

“It’s perfectly clear that I’m fine to do radio,” said Conners, who said previously that he talked with officials from several radio local radio stations after being fired. He said he did not discuss specific terms with radio stations because the non-compete clause dampened radio stations’ interest. Read more

KSTP Anchor Sues After Learning Driver’s License Info Accessed

KSTP anchor Jessica Miles has filed a federal lawsuit claiming her driver’s license information was illegally searched nearly 1,380 times.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, about 20 people have sued local and state government agencies after hearing from the Department of Public Safety that their private records had been accessed by public employees.

Mile’s lawsuit states, “On July 30, 2013, Jessica was shocked and disgusted to learn from DPS that it had determined that officers and personnel from approximately 180 different departments and agencies had reviewed and improperly obtained or used her private data.”

Miles, the on-air name of Jessica Kampschroer, is married to Cory Kampschroer a digital news manager at the Minneapolis-St. Paul ABC affiliate who is also joining the suit.

Read more

WDJT Responds to Recent Complaints

WDJT has responded to TVSpy’s request for comment about the two discrimination complaints recently filed against the station.

In an email, vice president and general manager Jim Hall told TVSpy,

We have received copies of the discrimination charges that were filed by two employees with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Weigel Broadcasting Co. and CBS 58 have a strong commitment to equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination.  We take any such allegations very seriously, and we are reviewing them with our legal counsel.   However, as a policy, we do not comment on pending legal matters.  We look forward to addressing these matters through the legal process.

Anchor and reporter Shari Dunn filed a complaint on August 30 saying both parent company Weigel Broadcasting and WDJT management maintain “a culture of discrimination where white males are favored over minority females.” Two weeks later, WDJT reporter and Telemundo Wisconsin anchor Carlos Vergara filed a separate complaint alleging he was denied the opportunity to anchor for WDJT in favor of less experienced anchors who spoke only English. This week, a station photographer resigned saying he didn’t feel the station was concerned with his safety.

WDJT Hit With Second Discrimination Lawsuit in a Month

Weigel Broadcasting and Milwaukee CBS affiliate WDJT are facing two separate discrimination lawsuits complaints brought within the last month.

On August 30, Shari Dunn, anchor and reporter for WDJT, filed a complaint alleging both the station and its parent company Weigel Broadcasting maintain, “a culture of discrimination where white males are favored over minority females.”

According to the Hispanic News Network Blog, Carlos Vergara, bilingual anchor for Telemundo Wisconsin and reporter for WDJT, filed a complaint alleging he was denied the opportunity to anchor for WDJT in favor of less experienced anchors who spoke only English.

The Hispanic News Network said, according to Vergara’s attorney Cole White, when the anchor told WDJT and Telemundo Wisconsin news director Genie Garner the station doesn’t speak to the community it’s supposed to cover, she said, “we don’t care about them anyway.” White also alleges Garner refers to the Latino community as illegal aliens and that Weigel corporate executives told him they don’t care whom she offends.

>UPDATE: Cole White, Vergara’s attorney told TVSpy they have not filed a lawsuit against WDJT yet. But White did reference our most recent story about the WDJT photographer who quit over safety concerns. ”Recent events have made it clear that there are many more instances of discrimination and many more individuals who have been victim to the stations atmosphere of discrimination, intolerance and bullying,” said White.

Read more

Fired Reporter Sues KAKE For Defamation, Breach of Contract

Two months after he was fired from KAKE, Jared Cerullo has filed a defamation and breach of contract lawsuit against the Wichita ABC affiliate. According to the Wichita Business Journal, Cerullo is seeking more than $75,000 in damages in the suit, which names KAKE parent company Gray Television and news director Michael Sipes.

Cerullo parted ways with the station in June after reporting the defendant in a story he had been covering pleaded guilty to murder. In fact, the defendant pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a hearing, sending the case to trial. Cerullo, who also tweeted the false information, corrected himself later in the newscast, but was terminated a day later for “gross negligence,” according to the defamation suit.

In a statement to the Wichita Business Journal, Cerullo said: “What happened was truly unfortunate for both myself and the good people who work at KAKE. I believe the petition speaks for itself, and I am anxious for a Wichita jury to hear the facts of the case.”

Larry Conners Files Second Suit Against KMOV, Still Active on Facebook

Larry Conners, the longtime anchor who was fired from St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV, has filed a defamation suit naming the station, general manager Mark Pimentel, news director Sean McLaughlin and parent company Belo Corp.

The suit claims those named in the complaint, “falsely communicated to the public that [Conners'] professional performance was inadequate, poor, and seriously defective.” He also filed an age discrimination suit against KMOV in May.

The veteran anchor was let go in May after writing on his Facebook page he was being targeted by the IRS after a tense interview with President Obama.

You might think he would sour on social media after losing his job of 28 years over what he wrote on Facebook, but Conners has embraced it. He has a new Facebook page titled Larryconnersusa where he posts news and opinion on everything from the potential for US involvement in Syria, to “Obamacare,” to puppy love. Conners has also posted updates on his legal battle with his former station.

TVSpy asked him whether he thought his Facebook activity would hinder his future job prospects. “The hold-up at this point does not involve my views, but rather the non-compete which KMOV/Belo insist on enforcing even though I was fired for a FB posting,” said Conners who claims the non-compete clause prevented him from taking a job in July. “My action was not a reason to terminate someone with 28 years as a Prime Anchor. I didn’t commit a crime or slander someone.”

Read more

Streaming TV Services Highlight Industry ‘At a Crossroads’

With the legal battle over streaming television service Aereo potentially headed to the Supreme Court, another streaming service, Syncbak, has secured investment money from CBS and support from the National Association of Broadcasters. USA Today reports the new technology proves the industry is “at a crossroads.”

Users download the Syncbak application, which uses a smartphone’s or tablet’s GPS to determine which available stations lie in the user’s vicinity. The affiliates determine which programming can be accessed through the application. WOI in Des Moines, for example, has most of its newscasts available for live streaming.

WOI Vice President and General Manager Russ Hamilton said he frequently uses the app to check in on his station’s programming. He said the application gets consistent usage, although actual numbers were not available. He said mobile television is likely here to stay. “I’m not smart enough to figure out the future of television, but it’s definitely headed that way,” he said. “People are on the go.” Read more

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