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Ex-news director for KMEX sues Univision

November 18, 2008|Meg James | James is a Times staff writer.

A television news director who was fired by Univision Communications Inc. last year for allegedly slanting the news fired back Monday, contending in a lawsuit that company executives shaped stories to woo advertisers.

Jorge Mettey served for five years as the influential news director of Univision's flagship KMEX-TV Channel 34, which is Los Angeles' top-rated station. He was ousted in April 2007 after the company determined that he breached ethics policies in directing news coverage.

The suit, filed in federal court in Santa Ana, claims that Mettey was fired after he refused to go along with Univision's alleged practice of tailoring news coverage for some advertising sponsors.

"During his employment, Mettey encountered problems with Univision's desired method of conducting business, specifically the sale of news content and the promotion of immigration reform strictly for the purpose of having political campaigns buy advertising time from Univision," the suit states.

An advertiser's logo sometimes would be displayed during an interview, or a company's name might be mentioned "to millions of television viewers even though the story may not have been newsworthy," the suit contends. The suit does not cite specific examples.

The situation intensified in early 2007, after a group of investors acquired Univision in a $12.3-billion leveraged buyout, said Federico Sayre, an attorney for Mettey. "The pressure was on to increase advertising revenue in short fashion," Sayre said.

Univision dismissed Mettey's claims. "The suit has absolutely no merit," said general counsel Douglas Kranwinkle.

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meg.james@latimes.com

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