Miller to anchor early morning news on Channel 2

August 09, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Rudy Miller will return full time to local television Sept. 16 as part of WMAR-TV's expansion of its weekday morning newscasts.

The station yesterday announced the hiring and spelled out plans to air its news show from 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m., setting the stage for one of the most interesting battlegrounds on the local television front this fall. Beginning Monday, WJZ-TV (Channel 13) will expand its morning newscast from 60 to 90 minutes, also by starting at 5:30 a.m. Don Scott and Marty Bass will continue as co-anchors.

Last year, Channel 11 made a series of personnel moves aimed '' at improving its morning news ratings; thus far it has failed to dent Channel 13's dominance -- more than half of all TV sets in use are often tuned to Channel 13 from 6 to 7.

But the arrival of Miller, who will be paired with Horace Holmes, and the head-to-head 90-minute matchup, make for a major commitment by Channel 2 to win a bigger share of the morning news market.

Channel 2 President and General Manager Arnold J. Kleiner, asked why he was expanding local news when there are budget cutbacks at the network level, explained, "With all the choices and channels now available to viewers, the only thing that differentiates one local station from another is your local news and local presence. I want to do even more."

Kleiner said that as a result of the new local broadcast, NBC's "Sunrise" news show might not be shown here. At issue is whether NBC can feed the show earlier than it now does to Channel 2, so that the station can air it before 5:30. As for Miller, she said yesterday that "it's great to be back on TV full time again. . . . I didn't realize how much I missed it until I started filling in on the weekends" earlier this year.

Miller, 41, was a full-time anchor at WBAL-TV (Channel 11) until 1989 when she was taken off the air in a salary dispute with station management. The dispute centered on Miller's contention that she was paid less than her male counterparts at Channel 11 because she was a woman. Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sided with Miller and sued Channel 11 in her behalf. The litigation is pending.

Miller returned to television on a free-lance basis this spring with her weekly "Rudy's Kids" feature on Channel 2 and weekend anchoring while Sally Thorner was on maternity leave.

Miller officially joins Channel 2 on Sept. 1. Both she and the station declined to discuss specifics of the contract except to say that it was a multiyear deal.

She said her new job means she will no longer host the radio talk show she has anchored for the last year and a half on WCBM-AM.

Miller will, however, continue as publisher of Maryland Family magazine, which she said has a circulation of 30,000 and is turning a profit.

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