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Glenn Halbrooks

On-Air Resignations Show the Dangers of Live TV

By November 26, 2012

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Many people who work in local TV news have seen the video, or at least heard the story -- two news anchors at WVII in Bangor, Maine, announced their immediate resignations while on the station's 6 o'clock newscast. Their ability to use the airwaves for action that usually takes place behind closed doors should remind station managers of the dangers of live TV.

A photo of a broadcast transmission tower
People who appear on live TV have the power to embarrass their employers.
Photo © sundstrom / stock.xchng
Their on-air goodbye was undramatic. Station management can at least be thankful that no outbursts, profanity or dirty laundry came out during the newscast. But in an interview with the local newspaper, the anchors said upper management hindered their ability to be ethical, balanced journalists.

It will be interesting to see when and if the two anchors are able to resurface at other TV stations. As for the station itself, management says an expansion will continue and it will hire replacements.

It's impossible to render judgment on the anchors' complaints and whether their gripes were valid. One of the anchors was also the news director while the other was executive producer. So besides being on the air, they had key managerial roles in the newsroom.

The situation is a reminder that a TV news anchor has unique power while on live TV. Normally, a TV news director could spot a disgruntled employee and prevent that person from getting on the air and embarrassing the station. When the news anchor and the news director are the same person, that line of defense is removed.

If you work in TV news management, take a look at the basic TV contract you present to your on-air staff members. Decide if a clause should be added that would punish those who use the airwaves to attack the station -- like a promise of legal action.

According to the Bangor Daily News, WVII is a distant third in the Nielsen ratings in the Bangor DMA. It would appear that viewers had already made their decision on watching the station's anchor team long before these sudden resignations.

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