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Lawsuits

KBTX Statement on Bob French Discrimination Charge: ‘Allegations Are Utterly Without Merit’

bob french kbtxHouston media blogger Mike McGuff gets a statement from KBTX about the discrimination allegations by former chief meteorologist Bob French:

The KBTX family is disappointed to learn from other media outlets that our former colleague and friend Bob French has chosen to file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stemming from his employment here. KBTX and Gray Television respect the privacy of the employment relationship, and accordingly, will not litigate matters related to Mr. French’s employment in the press. KBTX, however, will defend itself vigorously against Mr. French’s allegations and is confident that upon reviewing the record, the EEOC will conclude that Mr. French’s allegations are utterly without merit.

Former Meteorologist Files Age and Disability Discrimination Charge Against KBTX

kbtx logoBob French, a former chief meteorologist at KBTX in Bryan-College Station, has filed a charge of age and disability discrimination against the CBS affiliate and its parent company, Gray Television, with the EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission.

French worked at KBTX for 23 years. In a statement released by Houston law firm Peckham PLLC, French, who is “over the age of 40,” claims he was overworked during the 2012 holidays while younger employees were granted time off. French says the strain resulted in in-patient treatment for exhaustion and stress in mid-January, causing a three-month absence from the station under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

When he returned to KBTX in April 2013, French’s attorney says the weathercaster was “reprimanded … for matters relating to his disability and FMLA leave,” according to the statement. He was fired in July and replaced “by a weathercaster under 40 years of age.”

A lawsuit is is expected to be filed on the allegations as soon as the EEOC federal investigation of KBTX and Gray Television is complete, according to his attorney. See the statement after the jump. Read more

Settlement Reached in Anchor’s Suit Against Sinclair’s Portland Station

raffertyFormer Portland, ME, anchor Doug Rafferty has reached a settlement in the lawsuit he filed in February against CBS affiliate WGME and its parent company Sinclair Broadcasting, according to the Kennebec Journal

Rafferty, who currently serves as a spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, had been with the station for 13 years before suffering a stroke on air in January 2006.

“In 2007, General Manager Terry Cole and News Director Robert Atkinson told Mr. Rafferty that the station was removing him from ‘the chair.’ In other words, the station was removing Mr. Rafferty from his anchor position,” says the seven-page complaint in the lawsuit. “When Mr. Rafferty was replaced as anchor, he was 55 years old. His replacement was in his early 40s.”

The Kennebec Journal reports the settlement was reached “by mutual agreement.” Terms of the settlement were not available. Read more

Viewers Stage Protest to Bring Suspended WUSA Anchor Back

JC-HAYWARDHolding flashlights and singing “We Shall Overcome,” about two dozen people showed up in support of WUSA anchor J.C. Hayward on a Northwest Washington, D.C. sidewalk.

The anchor for the local CBS affiliate has been off the air since early October after being suspended for her alleged role in a lawsuit accusing executives at a local charter school of siphoning off millions of dollars of the school’s money into two for-profit companies.

“The charges against J.C. do not match the J.C. that we know. J.C. has always given,” Norma Stewart, who said she has been a friend of Hayward for decades, told The Washington Post.

Friends and supporters who gathered outside WUSA’s offices Thursday prayed and sang, and said there’s no way Hayward — who has frequently volunteered for and donated to local charities — would have knowingly been involved in anything inappropriate. Read more

NFL and MLB May Stop Airing Game Broadcasts if Aereo Prevails

aereo_mlb_nflForget the major broadcasters, Aereo may now be up against sports fans everywhere after the National Football League and Major League Baseball warned if the subscription streaming service wins its Supreme Court case, they might end free game broadcasts.

Major League Baseball and the National Football League filed an amicus brief last week, adding their names to the growing list of broadcasters and organizations looking to stop the controversial streaming media company that allows subscribers to record over the air broadcast signals without paying licensing fees.

According to Variety, the leagues said in their brief, “If copyright holders lose their exclusive retransmission licensing rights and the substantial benefits derived from those rights when they place programming on broadcast stations, those stations will become less attractive mediums for distributing copyrighted content. The option for copyright holders will be to move that content to paid cable networks (such as ESPN and TNT) where Aereo-like services cannot hijack and exploit their programming without authorization.”

Court Rules WTMJ Did Not Violate Bus Driver’s Privacy With On-Camera Confrontation

WTMJ_BusDriver_Koebel

A state appeals court has ruled that WTMJ, the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, did not violate a school bus driver’s privacy when investigative reporter Robert Koebel confronted her on-camera about a past prostitution conviction.

The report, which aired in April of last year, was an investigative report about about Milwaukee school bus drivers who had criminal records. The station obtained the information through an open-records request and then used police reports to identify people who had been convicted of a crime. After the report aired, the bus driver, Melissa Dumas, was fired. She sued Koebel and WTMJ’s parent company, Journal Communications, alleging invasion of privacy.

According to the Associated Press, a lower court ruled that the bus driver’s conviction was public record and WTMJ’s report was protected under the first amendment. The appeals court upheld the decision, saying that the information was “undoubtedly embarrassing” but also a “matter of public concern.”

Appeals Court Backs Former Milwaukee Reporter in Defamation Lawsuit

wtmj_304Former WTMJ reporter John Mercure, along with WTMJ and its parent company Journal Broadcasting have been cleared of defamation by a Wisconsin appeals court.

The suit sprung from Mercure’s investigation into a local wedding videographer named Angela Terry who was accused of not fulfilling her promise of delivering completed videos to the couples who paid for her service within the promised 1o-12 weeks.

The investigation from the Milwaukee NBC affiliate reporter included a scuffle between the reporter and the defendant caught on camera, claims by Mercure that the defendant was “facing criminal charges” and Mercure calling Terry a “scammer” and a “cheat.”

The Wisconsin Bar Association has the court’s ruling:

In Terry v. Mercure et al., 2012AP1682 (Oct. 15, 2013), a three-judge panel for the District I Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that that all alleged defamatory statements in question were either opinions are substantially true.

Defamation requires a false statement to be communicated in speech, conduct, or writing to a third-person, and the communication must harm the subject’s reputation. Read more

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

aereo_304

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.

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