Kstw Intrigue Includes Letterman At Midnight

Legally, Paramount Station Group of Los Angeles can't run KSTW-TV (CBS) until its acquisition is approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Action is expected by June 2.

In reality, strings apparently are being pulled through present owner Gaylord Entertainment of Nashville, which conceded as much in a terse written statement issued Wednesday about the massacre that sent 50 of KSTW's 180 employees packing.

The pink slips "were notices of Paramount's staffing intentions following their purchase of the station," said the statement, attributed to Carl Kornmeyer, Gaylord senior vice president of broadcast affairs.

"Gaylord Entertainment felt that the employees should know as soon as possible, so we made the announcement following Paramount's notification to us."

In other words: It's not out fault. In fact, we did everyone a favor by ending the uncertainty.

"It would have been inappropriate for Paramount to make such an announcement prior to closing" the deal, Kornmeyer said, dancing around the fact that, in essence, Paramount has done exactly that, through Gaylord.

"We will not comment further on these employment matters," Kornmeyer concluded. Neither Gaylord corporate spokesman Alan Hall nor KSTW vice president and general manager Kevin Hale, who will not be retained by Paramount, returned phone calls.

It's unclear who compiled the list of unlucky veterans and newcomers, which insiders called unpredictably precise, but Gaylord is handling their severance packages.

It would also be legally inappropriate for Paramount to announce post-acquisition programming plans, but KSTW employees know what those are, too.

KSTW hasn't formally announced it, but Kornmeyer told staff members more of what Paramount has in store at a meeting last Tuesday, sources said.

Fans of David Letterman might want to prick up their ears for this part.

Beginning on June 9, KSTW's 11 p.m. news will be stretched to an hour to prepare for the day, probably June 30, when the station loses CBS, joins UPN and begins broadcasting an hour of news at 10.

"The Late Show with David Letterman" will be pushed back to a midnight start - until KIRO-TV (now UPN) picks up CBS at the end of June.

Before the Letterman delay is implemented, on June 2, KSTW will drop its 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. newscasts, substituting reruns of "Perry Mason" and "The Cosby Show."

KSTW staffers knew all this was going to happen. They knew there would be a layoff, especially in the newsroom, which accounted for half the firings. They knew the station eventually would do only an hour of news at 10.

What they still don't really know is who, philsophically speaking, is about to own them. Paramount has reached out to its future staff through a mysteriously orchestrated mass firing.

"When we do take ownership, we will outline our plans for the future of the station," says Paramount spokeswoman Michelle Hunt.

Plans for the present are already clear.

TV-Radio Beat appears every Friday in The Seattle Times. Electronic-media reporter Chuck Taylor can be reached at (206) 464-8524 or on the Internet at ctay-new@seatimes.com.