MEDIA : For KCBQ Union Members, It's Back to Square One

When contacted by a reporter, the director of the local office of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists wouldn't explain why the union agreed to drop the final year of its contract with radio station KCBQ (105.3-FM and 1170-AM). But it's not hard to guess the reasons, after talking to Jim Seemiller of Adams Communications Group, which purchased the station in November.

"When we bought the radio station we made an asset purchase and we didn't have to assume the union contract at all," said Seemiller, vice president of Adams' western region.

None of the employees of Adams' other stations are represented by unions, Seemiller said.

KCBQ has been an AFTRA shop for more than 20 years. The current contract, covering 10 on-air personalities, was due to expire in April, 1991. But when Adams bought the station, the union agreed to drop the last year of the contract and open negotiations.

"We didn't expect the union to give up the final year the way they did," said one KCBQ union member. "We were all taken by surprise by that.

"We didn't even know about the (decision about the) last year until the company told us. The union didn't even tell us."

The station's negotiations with AFTRA for a new contract are scheduled to begin Feb. 21. The pension and welfare plans are believed to be among the areas Adams wants to discuss.

AFTRA director Jeff Korber declined comment on the negotiations.

AFTRA is not exactly a powerful force in San Diego. Only a handful of radio stations and KFMB-TV (Channel 8) have employees represented by AFTRA. KGTV's (Channel 10) on-air employees voted to drop AFTRA a few years ago.

Seemiller emphasized that Adams has no intention of driving the union out of KCBQ.

"If that was our intent the day to do it was the day of the takeover," he said. "We could have really done whatever we wanted to do."

These are days of turnover for the KNSD-TV (Channel 39) weekend team. Co-anchor Kim Devore is already on her way out (she turned in her resignation two months ago), and Bernard Gonzalez still seems uncomfortable in the co-anchor role.

New to the weekend roster is KSON radio morning guy Jack Diamond. He was hired as a fill-in weatherman, which put perky Dave Bender on tenuous ground. Rounding out the weekend team, sports guy Kevin Hunt is working without a contract and is widely rumored to be out of favor with management.

The station has hired two new reporters, including Mt. Miguel High School graduate Vic Salazar, who spent the last six years as a reporter and weekend anchor at KGET in Bakersfield. He starts today. Reporter Michael Settonni, who has been working with WGME in Portland, Me., will be an environment specialist, heading what is being dubbed the "E Team." He starts Feb. 19.

"We will make some changes on weekends, but it may not involve anybody other than Kim," Channel 39 news director Don Shafer said on Thursday. He indicated that Bender's job was secure.

Friday afternoon Bender was gone, after he couldn't reach an agreement with the station on a new contract.

KFMB-TV's (Channel 8) Ted Leitner had "something to say" on the air last week about his own decision to use embargoed footage of the George Foreman-Gerry Cooney fight without permission.

"It was a bunch of incredible stupidity on my part," said Leitner, in a highly unusual public apology.

The mea culpas flowed from Leitner, who two weeks earlier had downplayed the incident, telling a San Diego Union reporter, "This is nothing." Cox Cable had threatened to sue Channel 8 over the unauthorized footage, used by Leitner the night of the fight and again the next day.

"We, meaning me, made a mistake," Leitner told the audience. "We won't be using any of these again."

Known for his outspoken commentaries, Leitner stopped just short of calling himself a "bozo."

"Do I look embarrassed?" he asked. "I feel like a 9-year-old sent to the principal."

The persistent advances of CBS executives and the generally conservative nature of the family-owned Midwest Television, owners of Channel 8, probably had much to do with the station's decision, announced Thursday, to stick with the network, despite overtures from top-rated NBC. A sweetheart deal from CBS certainly was a factor, too, but Midwest is not the type of company noted for taking risks or making major changes. . . .

The affiliate news was greeted with a huge sigh of relief at KNSD-TV (Channel 39), which stood to lose millions of dollars if NBC moved to Channel 8. The news came on the heels of reports that SCI Television, owners of Channel 39, was taking steps to reorganize its complicated financial problems, preempting a possible forced sale of the station. All in all, it was a big week for station employees. . . .

Rick Brown, the producer of Channel 8's 6:30 p.m. newscast, is leaving to produce the 8 p.m. news for KCAL-TV (Channel 9) in Los Angeles, part of the station's three-hours of prime-time news set to begin on March 5. . . .

The Blade-Tribune, er . . . Blade-Citizen, or whatever that Oceanside-based paper is called these days, will be switching its daily from afternoons to mornings in April. . . .

KKYY-FM (Y95) program director Pam Finn says she resigned because the station couldn't offer her the type of progress she wanted from her career. "I feel there is limited growth for me here and a limited future," she said, emphasizing that she has nothing but pleasant things to say about her co-workers. Meanwhile, longtime nighttime disc jockey Dan Springfield recently resigned and the station's contract with the morning team of Jeff Elliott and Jerry St. James--the station's only real marketable personalities--expires at the end of April, and they've already been approached by other stations in town. . . .

Any television producer in the world would salivate over the prospect of programming an hour of air time directly following the Super Bowl. Channel 8 had the chance to do something really good, really interesting. Instead, it devoted much of the hour to a cheesy commercial for itself, doing a feature on new employee Tim Flannery and previewing its upcoming ratings sweeps-month features. . . .

Michael Packer is out at XTRA-AM (690) and Hal Brown has been bumped up to director of operations. . . . Ernie Myers is back on the KSDO-AM (1130) morning team, after being dumped a year ago. . . . The reunion of KCBQ on-air personalities has been postponed to March 1, due to problems with the location. . . .

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