The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Wednesday, December 6, 1995            TAG: 9512060042
TYPE: Column 
SOURCE: Larry Bonko 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   74 lines


WHEN FOX Broadcasting in September 1998 transfers its programming from WTVZ in Norfolk to WVBT in Virginia Beach, will the Washington Redskins also move to Channel 43?


That depends on what happens between now and the end of 1997 when Fox Broadcasting's $1-billion-plus contract with the National Football League expires. If Fox again outbids CBS or Turner, or whomever else may emerge in 1997 to pursue broadcast rights to the Sunday afternoon NFL games of the National Conference, then the Redskins will, indeed, swing on over to WVBT.

So will ``Fox NFL Sunday,'' the pregame show with those in-studio free spirits, Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and Howie Long - unless Johnson is coaching the Miami Dolphins by then.

Also moving will be the ``Fox Box,'' a neat innovation - the score and time remaining at a glance in the left-hand corner of the TV screen - that adds so much to watching a football game.

Local broadcasters are still buzzing about how the Fox affiliation was hustled away from WTVZ by the owners of NBC affiliate WAVY who have a local marketing agreement with WVBT. Just one year ago, Lin Television forged that agreement with WVBT, lined up the station with the Warner Brothers network and now, something even better - an affiliation with up-and-coming Fox in 1998.

Why did Fox switch affiliates here in America's 40th largest television market just months after Sinclair Broadcasting of Baltimore bought the station from local businessmen?

Lin, through local spokesman Ed Munson, general manager of WAVY, will say nothing more than the company is delighted to be welcoming Fox to WVBT in 1998. ``The 10-year agreement should assist WVBT and Lin in establishing WVBT as a vital and indispensable addition to the Norfolk market,'' said Munson.

In Los Angeles, Fox spokesperson Cindy Ronzoni would not comment on why her network sought to change affiliates here.

``We look forward to the opportunity to be affiliated in the future with WVBT and Lin. Fox will fully honor its agreement with WTVZ through the end of August 1998. WTVZ has a strong management and will, no doubt, thrive after its affiliation with Fox expires,'' said Ronzoni.

That ``strong management'' she mentioned is an absentee management. Sinclair never installed a general manager in Norfolk.

Did that annoy Fox?

And WTVZ has yet to start a 10 p.m. weeknight local newscast. That is a priority with Fox.

As WTVZ's new management held off on starting up the 10 p.m. newscast, waiting for Nielsen rating meters to replace diaries in this market, competitors WTKR and WVEC went to work. They signed agreements with WGNT and WPEN to put primetime newscasts on the air on those stations.

WVBT will have a 10 p.m. newscast starting in the fall of 1998.

Rupert Murdoch, Fox chairman, insists that his affiliates run local news at 10. I recall hearing him say at a Los Angeles press conference in 1993 that he will withdraw Fox affiliation from stations who do not have a 10 p.m. local newscast.

And as recently as last July, Fox Entertainment Group president John Matoian told TV writers that he had appointed Joe Peyronnin head of Fox News ``with a mandate'' to develop the network's news resources including local newscasts. Obviously, they were not listening at Sinclair headquarters in Baltimore.

The news of the Fox switch was sweet music to the ears of Walter Ulloa, a fortysomething businessman in Southern California who put WVBT on the air in 1992 as a home-shopping channel that hardly anyone knew was out there. Soon, he'll be the owner of a Fox affiliate.

So, why isn't Ulloa smiling? Because, he said in a telephone interview, WVBT has lost money since the day it signed on. Joining up with Murdoch should fix that. by CNB