WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM . . . : "Chopper Bob" Tur, who practically invented eye-in-the-sky helicopter reporting on the local TV news, has been dumped by KCBS-TV Channel 2 but he isn't going quietly.
The Emmy-winning newsman and his company, Los Angeles News Service, sued the station for $9 million, alleging breach of contract. He is also seeking a court order to block KCBS from allegedly exploiting his famous footage, including that of the Reginald Denny beating and O.J. Simpson's slow freeway chase.
In the suit, filed in Santa Monica Superior Court, Tur alleged that KCBS conspired with a rival news service, Metro Networks, to raid his staff and terminate his contract a year early. It then replaced him with the cheaper chopper service, the suit said. Tur, who is flying for the syndicated television show "American Journal," officially leaves KCBS at the end of the month.
He alleged in his suit that KCBS engaged in unfair business practices by encouraging Metro Networks to lure away his chief pilot by offering him a bigger paycheck. Tur also alleged in the suit that he trained the pilot, and supplied him with trade secrets such as news-gathering techniques and names of sources.
"He really created this kind of genre," said Tur's lawyer, William A. Bergen. "This whole thing is kind of underhanded and not the way you normally run a business, unless you're talking about the entertainment business. And entertainment and news really are becoming the same thing, whether you like it or not."
"Bringing balance back to local news" is the station's slogan. Playing on that, Tur said: "I filed the suit because I'm trying to bring balance back to KCBS television."
A spokesperson at the station said KCBS "denies all the claims" in the suit, adding: "KCBS-TV's decision to terminate its agreement with Los Angeles News Service was a business decision made in good faith."
A Metro Networks spokesperson called Tur's claim "groundless."
BARBIE WORLD: Mattel went to court to defend the honor of its $2-billion-a-year plastic princess, Barbie, who has been portrayed as a bimbo in a chart-climbing pop song by the Danish musical group Aqua.
The El Segundo toy maker filed a copyright infringement suit against MCA Records seeking an immediate recall of all copies of the "Barbie Girl" CD single and video, and the album "Aquarium," as well as damages to be determined later.
An MCA spokesman said the song was done in fun, and every copy is clearly marked with this disclaimer: "The song 'Barbie Girl' is a social comment and was not created or approved by the makers of the doll."
Mattel spokesman Sean Fitzgerald retorted: "That's comparable to a bank robber handing a note of apology to a bank teller during a heist."
The song, the No. 9 single in Billboard's Top 10, begins with the words "Hi, Barbie. Hi, Ken," and Fitzgerald drolly observed, "What's the likelihood of a Danish couple being named Barbie and Ken?" Other lyrics include:
"I'm a barbie girl in a barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic.
You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere . . .
I'm a blond bimbo girl in a fantasy world."
MCA Records President Jay Boberg said in a prepared statement that he has not seen the suit, but believes Mattel's claims are "baseless."
" 'Barbie Girl' is a terrific pop song that's been embraced by the public," Boberg said.
EXPECTING A VISITOR: It's up to a federal judge to decide this week whether Fox Television's hugely hyped new UFO show "The Visitor" actually makes its debut Friday night.
U.S. District Judge Richard A. Paez is being asked to make the dramatic, eleventh-hour decision in connection with a writer's copyright infringement suit. Such requests are rarely, if ever, granted. But the judge has agreed to at least consider the request, attorney Mark E. Kalmansohn said.
Actor/writer Gerry Berns, who has worked on "The Net," "Eraser" and "Beverly Hills Cop," is seeking to halt airing of the opening episode, which he claims is strikingly similar to his original 1987 screenplay, "The Return of Waldo Fox." His script was hardly a secret, Kalmansohn said, because it was shopped around the Fox lot and at two powerhouse talent agencies at least 14 times.
Both Berns' screenplay and the series feature a pilot who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, only to return 50 years later imbued with magical powers to heal, tame fierce animals and perform paranormal tricks, according to the suit.
Among the exhibits submitted to Judge Paez are Berns' screenplay and a videotape of the show, with 35 similarities marked for comparison. Among the most striking, according to Kalmansohn: "There's a matronly computer maven named 'Mother' both in the screenplay and the pilot."
Claiming copyright infringement, Berns is seeking a preliminary injunction blocking the show's debut as well as at least $2 million in damages.
"The plaintiff's claim is wholly without merit, and we are confident that the broadcast of 'The Visitor' will not be interfered with," a Fox spokesperson said.