WJBF, WAGT negotiating with on-air personnel

Two Augusta television stations set to begin sharing services in January are still negotiating over on-air personnel.

In October, WJBF (Channel 6) and WAGT (Channel 26) announced that their parent companies had reached an agreement for WJBF to provide sales, news and other operational services for WAGT.

"We're pretty sure of a couple of them, but because of the contractual obligations of some of the anchors, we still haven't finalized our list yet," said Bill Stewart, the general manager at WJBF. "We opened it for ... their people to apply. Some of them have, and some of them have not yet."

Under the agreement, WAGT's 47 employees can become Media General employees, Mr. Stewart said. Richmond, Va.-based Media General owns the ABC affiliate. While some employees have chosen to move on, the majority will continue to work at the station, he said.

Mishawaka, Ind.-based Schurz Communications Inc. owns WAGT, the market's NBC affiliate. Under the agreement, WAGT will manage programming other than local news and fulfill additional obligations required by the Federal Communications Commission.

Mr. Stewart said several managers will lose their jobs. The agreement requires two WAGT managers to remain at the station.

"This is actually the best situation that could come about," said Mike Bell, the station manager at WAGT. "It allows the two companies to share resources in a better, more efficient way to meet advertiser demand and new demands of the economy and hopefully move those stations forward."

WJBF will take over WAGT on Friday, but changes in the news operation won't take effect until the next week. Mr. Stewart and WJBF's news director and sales managers will go back and forth between the two stations.

"The public will see very few changes. The one thing that you will see change is a little bit of programming," he said.

The 6 p.m. news on WAGT will remain, but the 11 a.m. newscast will be replaced with a 7 p.m. news program because many people work later, Mr. Stewart said.

WJBF's staff of 74 will not be affected, Mr. Stewart said. WJBF news personnel will continue broadcasting the 10 p.m. newscast on Fox affiliate WFXG (Channel 54).

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

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