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Brandwynne, Cox To Leave Kttv As Shake-up Goes On

July 04, 1987|JUDITH MICHAELSON | Times Staff Writer

Marcia Brandwynne, chief anchor and managing editor of Fox Television's Channel 11 news, says she is letting her contract run out next month "because the place changed radically, and it was no longer the job I had signed up for."

After three years, Brandwynne--virtually the only woman to hold both positions in a major media market--will air her final KTTV broadcast on Aug. 6 at 8 p.m.

And Tony Cox, her co-anchor and the only black TV anchor in Los Angeles, disclosed: "I've been told to find another job." His contract runs out in October.

Two months ago, Cox was removed as the station's news anchor at midnight. "I can't speak for them, and I wouldn't want to speculate (about why). Television is a very strange business," Cox, 38, who joined KTTV two years ago, said in a telephone interview.

In recent months, there have been major upheavals at Channel 11. Last week vice president and general manager Bill White resigned. His replacement, Robert Morse, was named immediately. Morse was most recently president and general manager at WHAS-TV, the CBS affiliate in Louisville.

"There was new management," Brandwynne, 43, said of Fox's takeover from Metromedia in March, 1986, and "new people came along. People changed, therefore the news product changed, and it's not a news product that I am," and she paused, "comfortable with."

"I had a terrific (first) two years (there), and maybe that's all you can expect in television," Brandwynne added.

The new management that Brandwynne alluded to includes Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born publisher who became an American citizen two years ago to comply with U.S. broadcast ownership rules and who owns the former Metromedia chain as well as 20th Century Fox Film Corp., and Barry Diller, the chairman and chief executive officer of Fox, Inc.

In Los Angeles, a spokesman for Fox Television indicated that no decisions on anchor replacements will be made until after Morse arrives.

Sitting in the kitchen of her home in the Hollywood Hills this week, Brandwynne declined to specify how the product changed. However, she did allow that at the station "the atmosphere changed. They brought in a new person to run the newsroom that effectively reduced my input."

She was referring to the appointment last March of Erik Sorenson as news director. Ironically, Sorenson quit in May to assume the same post at KCBS Channel 2, where he had been news director for two years until last October.

Brandwynne also noted that "it wasn't just him. They (the Fox people) knew what they were doing. They want their people, their philosophy and their style."

"Bill White and Joe Saitta hired me," Brandwynne said, "and now all the people who hired me are gone."

Saitta, who preceded Sorenson, recently became news director at Fox station KTTG in Washington. At Channel 11, Steve Blue, the station's executive editor, replaced Sorenson as news director.

There have also been changes in the newscast format. Last year, paving the way for Joan Rivers, the 11 p.m. newscast was pushed back to midnight. More recently, the midday newscast was eliminated altogether.

Speaking for Fox Television, Michael Binkow, vice president for corporate communications, declined to comment on personnel changes. "The company's comment in general is that we do not comment on this type of situation," he said, then added: "Miss Brandwynne made a substantial contribution, which we certainly appreciate."

Asked whether Fox has changed direction with its presentation of the news, Binkow replied: "I don't know what Metromedia did. Fox's position on the news is that we are committed to offering a first-class, top-quality news organization, and we will do whatever it takes to deliver that product."

Declining to speculate about initial reports that Cox was being let go, Binkow noted that "a lot of this is speculation. When Mr. Morse comes in as general manager with his strong background, he will have a strong input. . . . We do know there is a commitment to news."

However, Ed Hookstratten, Brandwynne's agent, whose clients also include Tom Brokaw and Bryant Gumbel, asserted: "I don't know that there \o7 is \f7 a philosophy (regarding news) that exists there now. The constant change of personnel rather ameliorates any philosophy, so I'm not sure what it is. I don't know that they know.

"I think the content is changing," Hookstratten added. "There has been a marked change in the last six months. The way they structured the news before, there was a good potpourri of news worldwide, U.S., and local. Now with their selections, I'm not sure they have a rule of thumb."

Hookstratten said that he didn't think the changes had anything to do with Murdoch or Diller, but rather "a lower-echelon management, not quite sure who's in charge."

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