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RCN adds CLTV to lineup

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Tribune Co.'s CLTV will be available to RCN subscribers starting today. CLTV moved its operations to Tribune Co.'s WGN-Channel 9 in August, creating a shared newsroom with additional resources for covering stories. CLTV has been on the air for more than 16 years.

PX00014_7.JPGFor those who watch Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9 newscasts, there's still no word on when -- or if -- the recuperating Allison Payne will return to the station's flagship hour-long 9 p.m. newscast alongside co-anchor Mark Suppelsa. According to WGN News Director Greg Caputo, Payne is still recuperating from her mini-strokes, and there's "no specific timetable" for when her recuperation will be complete. In the meantime, Payne continues to co-anchor the station's half-hour early newscast, a role she has had since January.

As for the other big pending development at WGN -- namely the bringing together of WGN's unionized staff with the non-union employees of sister station CLTV -- that has apparently been pushed back to the fall, while the WGN office space is reconfigured to better accommodate both staffs. An inside source at WGN tells us the CLTV on-air staff have been asking a lot of questions about whether they'll be paid union minimums in line with their WGN brethren. And some WGN talent, we're told, are wondering whether they'll become participants -- willingly or unwillingly -- in some sort of 24/7 news reporting cycle. All will be revealed, for better or worse, sometime in the fall when Caputo said "we hope to have the CLTV folks over and up and running."

So what else is new in the news biz? Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel axed bodies on Thursday. Sources say it was yet another cost-cutting move tied to Tribune Co.'s bankruptcy filing late last year and the need practically everywhere in the broadcast industry to reduce staff to match lower ad revenue numbers. Gone from WGN this time around are reporter Jane Boal, as well as three producers and the head of human resources. The HR office, sources say, is being merged with that of the Chicago Tribune. This summer WGN is slated to merge its unionized workforce with that of non-union CLTV, which promises to be an interesting excercise. And one that could potentially become quite messy.

This just in. Tribune Broadcasting said Wednesday it intends to "integrate" the operations of its 24-hour cable news station CLTV with Chicago's very own WGN-Channel 9. Of course, in this day and age, "integrate" is one of those euphemisms that typically get trotted out when a company is looking to do some serious downsizing. A Tribune spokesman confirmed that integrating the staffs of the two stations is likely to result in some layoffs, but exactly how many has not yet been determined. Also still to be worked out is how WGN's unionized on-air talent will work alongside CLTV's non-unionized anchors and reporters. Tribune may try to cut a deal with the union that would allow on-air talent at both stations to move back and forth between the two television outlets. But when all the integration dust has settled by the summer of this year, Tribune Broadcasting says CLTV will continue to operate as stand-alone channel.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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