WBAL-TV's Fine is moving on

June 16, 2005|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

After a seven-year run during which he led WBAL-TV (Channel 11) to new heights in ratings and prestige, Bill Fine will leave Baltimore's NBC affiliate next month to become executive vice president and general manager of WCVB-TV, the ABC affiliate in Boston.

The 49-year-old Fine, who is president and general manager at WBAL, came to Baltimore in 1998 from WCVB, where he had been the general sales manager. Hearst-Argyle Television Inc. owns both stations.

Fine is moving to a larger market: Baltimore is the nation's 23rd-largest TV market and Boston is fifth. Hearst officials, who are scheduled to announce Fine's replacement today, declined comment on their choice. Jordan Wertlieb, WBAL's general sales manager, however, is considered the leading candidate.

"I spent 14 years of my professional life at WCVB, and 10 years at WBAL," Fine, a Boston native and 28-year veteran of the TV industry, said yesterday. "It is safe to say that these are two stations and two communities that I hold near and dear to my heart. It was tough leaving Boston to come here. It's tough leaving here now to go back. Every move is tough, but it's so much easier because I'm going back to a station I am so familiar with."

WBAL, which has long been locked in a ratings battle with the CBS-owned WJZ-TV (Channel 13), established itself during Fine's tenure as the leader in nighttime news. In the most recent Nielsen ratings book, for May, WBAL dominated the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts, while running neck and neck with WJZ at 11 p.m.

"Bill has been a strong competitor, and he's become a good friend over the years," Jay Newman, vice president and general manager of WJZ, said yesterday. "We wish him the best success in Boston."

In April, WBAL received a 2004 Peabody Award, broadcasting's most prestigious national prize, for an investigation of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. It was only the second time a Baltimore station had won the award.

WCVB, which also has won a Peabody Award, is one of the industry's most honored commercial television stations - primarily due to a long-term commitment to public affairs and election coverage. Paul La Camera, who has been at WCVB for 33 years, will remain as president until year's end, at which time he will become a consultant to Hearst-Argyle. Fine, who joins WCVB Aug. 1, will be promoted from executive vice president to president on Jan. 1.

Fine has a bachelor of science degree from Boston University's College of Communication and is the married father of three children, ages 23, 17 and 13.

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