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KCBS, WGAW cross swords

The Writers Guild of America West has entered into arbitration proceedings against KCBS over allegations the O&O circumvented a contract covering news writers–a claim denied by the station.

Dispute involves KCBS’ appointment of four exec producers for newscasts that previously had none: the 11 p.m., noon, 6 a.m. and weekend programs.

The WGAW contends the station is attempting to effectively change the titles of writers without expanding their duties.

KCBS, however, insists the individuals involved in the controversy do have supervisory responsibilities.

Because an E.P. is considered management, the position is not subject to the WGAW agreement with KCBS.

As the station’s exec producer ranks expand from zero to four, the number of writers has decreased from about 20 to 15 through attrition. The net result is fewer positions covered by the WGAW contract.

KCBS issued a statement indicating the station’s agreement with the union allows an E.P. to write for news broadcasts.

“We believe we have a contractual right to have management people in executive producer positions. We made this move in order to strengthen our operation (by having) managers on (each) shift covering the entire broadcast day ,” a station spokeswoman said.

Because the case is a matter of pending litigation, neither the station nor the guild would elaborate on their positions.

Individuals named to the E.P. posts over the past few months include Caroline Bol, a former weekend producer who now handles the 11 p.m. newscast; Bill Wood, the previous overnight producer who has responsibility for the 6 a.m. broadcast; Eleanor Vega, a KMEX staffer who took over the weekends; and Kim Barker, who was hired from KHOU-TV in Houston to be E.P. of the noon show.

The station’s 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts have producers but there are reportedly no plans to add more exec producers. The station’s news director and assistant N.D. have direct oversight for those broadcasts.

In contrast to the new setup at KCBS, most other TV stations have exec producers solely for their primary early evening and late newscasts.

Some also have an E.P. overseeing special projects.

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