- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Does the Allbritton family’s troubled banking business make them unfit to hold the broadcasting license for the Washington area’s ABC affiliate, WJLA-TV (Channel 7)?

Theodore M. White, formerly the owner of rival WFDC-TV (Channel 14), filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission last month saying regulators should not renew WJLA’s license because the government is investigating claims of money laundering at Riggs Bank, which the family controls.

The Allbrittons fired back last week, arguing in documents filed with the FCC that Mr. White’s petition is “frivolous and specious.”

“Enforcement of banking regulations is best left to banking regulators,” said Jerald N. Fritz, senior vice president of legal and strategic affairs for the Allbrittons’ TV business.

The Allbrittons own about a dozen TV stations, including WJLA and NewsChannel 8 in the Washington area. The family once tried to purchase Channel 14, but it was sold to Univision Communications Inc., which changed the call letters to WFDC from Mr. White’s initials, WTMW.

The parent of PNC Bank recently agreed to buy Riggs, but representatives for the Allbrittons have strongly denied reports that they will sell their TV stations, too.

The FCC is unlikely to rule on Mr. White’s petition before December.

If it ain’t broke, part 1

Of all the questionable personnel moves WUSA-TV (Channel 9) has made lately, none has fired up readers of this column as much as the CBS affiliate’s decision to dump Hillary Howard, its morning weather forecaster since 2000.

“I am REALLY, REALLY upset,” writes one Alexandria reader who vowed to turn WUSA off for good after Ms. Howard’s final appearance Oct. 15.

The always-sunny Ms. Howard said she is “touched people feel that way.”

“Morning TV is such an intimate time. People are inviting you into their bathrooms before they’ve brushed their teeth,” she said.

WUSA’s general manager, Darryll J. Green, told Ms. Howard in September that the station wants to go in “a different direction” with a new forecaster. Other managers have suggested that letting the popular Ms. Howard go is a mistake.

She said she hopes to land a new gig soon.

If it ain’t broke II

National Public Radio began advertising for a new “Morning Edition” host last week, five months after it ousted Bob Edwards from that job.

An ad on Journalismjobs.com says NPR is seeking someone with, among other things, “significant experience hosting a live news show,” “a broad range of general news knowledge,” “a well-developed curiosity” and “national name recognition.”

Remind us: Which of those skills did Mr. Edwards lack?

Et cetera

• Chuck Bell, until recently a meteorologist at NewsCentral in Hunt Valley, Md., has joined the weather department at WRC-TV (Channel 4) as a graphics producer and fill-in forecaster.

• Regarding last week’s item on viewership for the Washington area’s 11 p.m. newscasts: WJLA’s average included the ratings from its Sept. 20 edition, which aired after midnight because “Monday Night Football” ran late.

Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

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