- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

The Federal Communications Commission has fined rock music station WWDC (101.1 FM) $6,000 for airing a telephone answering machine message without the permission of the person being called.
The broadcast occured Nov. 30. Elliot Segal, host of WWDC's popular "Elliot in the Morning" show, aired the answering message of Karen Libman, a Kensington resident embroiled in the town's so-called Santa Claus ban last winter.
According to published reports, Miss Libman suggested the town council drop Santa from the annual lighting of the Kensington Christmas tree. The council agreed, setting off a national media furor that cast Kensington as a town run amok with political correctness.
At the height of the controversy, Mr. Segal, whose Rockville studio is near Kensington, aired Miss Libman's answering machine message and encouraged listeners to call her to complain about the Santa ban. He also sent Christmas carolers to her house.
Miss Libman complained to the FCC, which ruled the station had broken federal rules that prohibit radio broadcasters from airing a person's voice without their permission.
"It's ridiculous," Mr. Segal says. "It was a very generic answering machine message. It's not like I put a converstation between us on the air."
Miss Libman did not return calls seeking comment.
A spokeswoman for Clear Channel Communications, the Texas media conglomerate that owns WWDC, declined comment. The company has until April 19 to file an appeal.
FCC sanctions are common in radio. Two weeks ago, the agency slapped Chicago station WKQX (101.1 FM) with a $21,000 fine for lewd on-air comments by its morning deejay.
WWDC is no stranger to controversy. In the early 1980s, its morning man was Howard Stern, the standard-bearer for radio shock jocks.
Mr. Segal, whose show airs weekdays from 5:30 to 10 a.m., is the new bad boy of Washington radio.
Two years ago, WWDC suspended him for one day without pay after he made some off-color comments on the air. The day he returned to the airwaves, he refused to play commercials during his show.
Mr. Segal ran afoul of the Secret Service last year when he sent one of his sidekicks to the White House the day after a gunman fired several shots near the South Lawn.
"We don't go out of our way looking for trouble. It just seems to find us," Mr. Segal says.

Help wanted
Fox affiliate WTTG-TV (Channel 5) is expected to announce a replacement this month for former weeknight news anchor Mike Landess.
The station is advertising on its Web site for an anchor with at least five years of experience and a "strong knowledge of national/international events."
Some newsroom staffers believe the station will hire from within, but at least one outsider, a former anchor for WCBS-TV (Channel 2) in New York, auditioned for the job. WTTG management wasn't bowled over by the anchorman's audition, though, according to reports.
Several WTTG staffers are rooting for popular morning anchor Michael Gargiulo, who got an on-air tryout when he co-anchored "Fox 5 News at Ten" last week.
Mr. Gargiulo may sit in on the 10 p.m. newscast again this week. He is well-liked in the newsroom, and is credited with keeping WTTG's "Fox Morning News" competitive in the early-morning news wars.
Mr. Gargiulo joined WTTG in September 2000 after spending three years as a Washington correspondent for the Hearst-Argyle station group. He has also reported stories from Europe, Central America and Asia.
Mr. Landess, who won a regional Emmy award last year as best news anchor in Washington, departed WTTG March 21 to return to Denver, where he was an anchor for the local NBC affiliate for 16 years.
Mr. Landess began contract renegotiations with WTTG in January, but the talks stalled. That allowed Denver's ABC affiliate, KMGH-TV (Channel 7), to swoop in and snatch him up.

The winners are …
Speaking of WTTG, it was the big winner in the regional Edward R. Murrow Awards announced last week by the Radio-Television News Directors Association trade group.
The Fox-owned outlet was one of only five TV stations in the nation that won six Murrow awards, the most given to any broadcaster this year.
WTTG was recognized for its on-the-scene reporting of the September 11 terrorist attacks, as well as for its ongoing coverage of the aftermath of the attacks.
Reporter Elizabeth Leamy took home awards for a report that showed the D.C. National Guard is understaffed, and a piece on cars donated to charity that end up benefiting private automobile dealers.
In addition, WTTG reporter Brian Bolter received an award for a investigative piece that showed local light poles are improperly maintained. Reporter Patrick McGrath also took home a sports reporting award for a piece on the opening of rockfish season.
CBS affiliate WUSA-TV (Channel 9) was recognized with a Murrow award for best newscast. Also, WUSA anchor Gordon Peterson received an award for best writing, and cameraman Mike Flynn was recognized in the videography category.
Among local radio broadcasters, news-and-talk station WMAL (630 AM) received a Murrow award for overall excellence. In addition, WMAL's Bryan Nehman was honored for reports on a Starbucks training program and the NBA Jam Session at the MCI Center.
Another WMAL reporter, Scott Wykoff, was honored for a piece on Cal Ripken's final game as a Baltimore Oriole.
All-news station WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM) won awards for its Web site, its coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks and its "Crumbling Capital" series on problems facing the District's infrastructure.

Home sweet home
ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) scored respectable numbers last week for "Home Sweet Home," a prime-time, home-improvement special produced by the station's news department.
The hourlong special aired March 26 at 8 p.m. and drew a 4.8 rating and 8 share. This means 102,144 local households or 8 percent of the viewers watching TV in Washington at that hour tuned in to the special.
"Home Sweet Home" pre-empted fading ABC sitcoms "Dharma & Greg" and "Spin City." It finished fourth in its time slot, behind the sitcoms and dramas on WUSA, WTTG and NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4), but it beat repeats of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Gilmore Girls" on the local UPN and WB affiliates.
WJLA is the only local affiliate that still regularly pre-empts network fare for local prime-time news specials, a once-proud tradition among Washington's TV broadcasters.
The station airs evening news specials about once every three months, according to president and general manager Chris Pike.

This just in …
NBC will turn its Saturday morning airwaves over to the Bethesda-based Discovery Channel beginning Oct. 5, the networks announced last week. Discovery will air six weekly shows on NBC, including children's versions of the popular "Crocodile Hunter" and "Walking With Dinosaurs" programs.
Eun Yang has joined WRC as a general assignment reporter. Miss Yang attended Paint Branch High School in Silver Spring and received her journalism degree from the University of Maryland. She previously reported for WUSA and the Washington-based National Geographic Channel.

Channel Surfing is published every other Monday. Got a tip? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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