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[whitespace] Peacock
Bird Buy: NBC announced this week that it would buy KNTV--not KRON.

Public Eye

Nesting Peacock

KNTV newsies turned the camera on themselves this week. NBC's announcement Monday that it would buy KNTV (Channel 11) from Granite Broadcasting put an end to weeks of speculation about whether the network would buy the San Jose station, San Francisco's KRON (Channel 4), or both or neither. But the deal raises yet more questions about how the transfer will shake out. The $230 million deal makes KNTV an O&O in industry parlance, meaning it's owned and operated by a network instead of acting as an affiliate. That means NBC calls the shots--and brings in its own people. Right now, KNTV lags far behind the other big Bay Area stations in news quality and ratings, so the network's first task will be to make it look like a major market operation. NBC will send an integration team to come look at every aspect of the station and take it from there, but no lineup changes are planned right off the bat. "As it stands right now senior management and talent will remain in place," says an NBC spokesperson ... The deal should be a good one for the Bay Area, although not necessarily the South Bay. Though KNTV news will spread itself thinner covering the entire Bay Area instead of just the South Bay, the network has much deeper pockets than debt-ridden Granite. It takes money to put together a good newscast, and NBC has a lot more to offer than the current owners. Another clear winner is Granite. The company is in dismal financial shape and, had it continued with the affiliation deal, would have paid NBC $362 million over 10 years. Instead, NBC paid Granite $230 million in cash to take KNTV off its hands, and the company's sagging stock jumped on the news. The FCC still needs to sign off on the sale, which should close sometime in mid-2002. Granite will keep its San Francisco WB affiliate, KBWB (Channel 20). ... NBC was also negotiating with Young Broadcasting to buy KRON, but the network decided Young wanted too much. A source close to the deal says the network valued KRON as an independent, which it will be now that the peacock is firmly nested in SJ ... Another headache for KNTV is winding its way through Superior Court these days. Eye watchers will recall a July item that mentioned that an African American woman who was fired from her job as a writer and producer was taking her case to the NAACP. Now, she's taking her case to court. In a lawsuit filed last month, JUNE FOSTER says she was subjected to race and sex discrimination at the station and alleges that management fired her because she complained. KNTV wouldn't comment.

Behind the Badge

Actually, you will need stinkin' badges if you're one of the City of San Jose's 7,000 employees. City officials have started issuing ID tags as part of stepped-up security measures at all city buildings, including the curvy blue one at 801 N. First St. But SJ city types won't be alone: County employees have been wearing the badges for years, along with just about every office park cube dweller in the valley. "It's one of the steps we've been taking as a result of our security assessment after Sept. 11," explains mayoral spokesbadge DAVID VOSSBRINK. "City employees will be expected to wear visible badges." It's part of a long list of new security measures city officials are taking these days, including some defensive landscape architecture: The city has also installed a phalanx of concrete planters filled with flowers outside the front door of City Hall to discourage errant vehicles, locked a few doors and made some other hush-hush changes. In any case, city employees who don't like wearing name tags around the office can complain to Councilman DAVE CORTESE, who recommended the expanded security measures to a receptive council. If that doesn't make them feel better, they can pretend they're part of the cast of West Wing.

Jeanette Watson
Jeanette Watson

Local Roots

Campbell Mayor JEANETTE WATSON, elected to a yearlong term in the rotating position by her councilmates last week, will be mayor for the city's big 50th birthday next spring. But when the city incorporated 50 years ago, Watson says, she never dreamed she'd be mayor. Watson, 70, grew up on a farm on Hamilton Avenue just blocks from downtown Campbell. The family grew apricots, walnuts, pears and cherries on land that now hosts a Carrows restaurant and some apartment complexes. When she was elected in 1985, Watson became the first woman to serve on the council. Even though the city approved term limits last year, Watson is still eligible to run again when her term is up. But after almost 30 years of involvement with City Hall, Watson says she may choose retirement over running again.

Two For Two

The management of this fine publication revealed this week what careful observers had long suspected: creeping plans to brand Metro's community papers as Silicon Valley Community Newspapers and operate them independently were a prelude to selling the group. The surprise buyer is Metro's ex-publisher and co-founder, DAVID COHEN. ... Cohen will own and run SVCN's six community weeklies, and Metro editor/publisher DAN PULCRANO emerges as Metro's principal owner. ... In explaining the decision to cut loose its group of award-winning community papers, Pulcrano said this week, "We realized a few years ago that we were becoming schizophrenic. It was tough to be a true alternative voice that challenged conventional wisdom and established interests while practicing the craft of community journalism, the mission of which is to reinforce mainstream community ideals and institutions. Car dealers canceled their ads in the Saratoga News when we wrote pieces in Metro criticizing the president." ... SVCN will move to a new office on The Alameda in San Jose, which will be the headquarters for its publications in Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Campbell and Willow Glen. Metro will keep its offices in downtown San Jose, along with its three other alternative weeklies: Metro Santa Cruz, North Bay Bohemian and Oakland's Urbanview. ... Pulcrano described the deal, funded by an investment banking firm specializing in media transactions, as a "very good one that leaves our company financially much stronger in these lean times." As for losing his business partner of 17 years, Pulcrano said, "Of course I'll miss him. He always kept a 1.75 liter bottle of Jack Daniels in his credenza, which comes in very handy at times in this crazy business."

Sally Lieber
Sally Lieber

Total Recall

A small group marched into a Mountain View City Council meeting last week to serve assembly candidate and next-in-line Mountain View mayor SALLY LIEBER with recall papers. (Actually, they'll need to resubmit the petition because it didn't have enough signatures.) "I think it's politically motivated," muses the councilwoman who's running for the 22nd Assembly seat. "It's really more of a smear campaign kind of thing." The group wants to derail Lieber's Assembly race and also block her probable ascent to mayor next month. Lieber is currently the vice-mayor, and she's in line to be elected for a yearlong term as mayor by the council next month. Eye couldn't get Lieber to guess what's motivating the group, and the group isn't really saying much about who they are. "We're community members," reveals recall spokesguy MIKE GROETHE. Groethe does say, however, that they're not connected to Lieber's two opponents in the Democratic primary: Santa Clara Councilboy ROD DIRIDON JR. and MV Councilgal ROSEMARY STASEK. Eye watchers should be familiar with the alleged transgressions cited by the anti-Lieber crew. The list includes Lieber's passing out campaign materials at a YWCA event (a no-no says the nonprofit org), poor attendance at council meetings and twisting the arm of firefighters to get their endorsement. The fire connection was plain at the group's first council appearance: ALAN DAVIS, attorney for the MV firefighters union, said at a recent meeting that Lieber should step down from the council. Lieber tells Eye she won't be stepping anywhere for now ... Elsewhere on the Mountain View dais, Mayor MARIO AMBRA isn't stepping down either. Charged with corruption by a Grand Jury last month, Ambra is due back in court this week to receive a trial date.

Afraid of Commitment?

It's one thing to break a date. It's another thing to break a contract with Table for Six, a dating service based in San Francisco and Mountain View. The company caters to upscale, active singles too busy to meet interesting people by arranging a series of group dinners or adventure packages. And it's not cheap. A one-year membership runs more than $1,500. After customers complained to local investigators last year that the company wasn't letting them out of their contracts, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office teamed up with their counterparts in SF to have a look at the company. They found, according to a lawsuit filed by prosecutors in October, that Table for Six was not disclosing to customers that they had a right to cancel contracts within three days of signing and that contracts could be canceled in the event of death, disability or relocation. The company also wasn't giving timely refunds. A judge ruled last week that the service must give love-seekers an easier way to break off the relationship--plus pay $20,000 in penalties and $7,400 in restitution. Eye called owner JULIE PAIVA but didn't hear anything for three days. Is it too soon to call again, or would Eye seem desperate?

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From the December 20-26, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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