Burns lawsuit nearing end

WBBM-TV anchor Diann Burns’ lawsuit against an contractor may be nearing an end. The anchor and her husband, Marc Watts, sued the contractor for shoddy work done to their $3 million home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood – and because they were African-American. The contractor contersued for the racism allegations.

The parties will meet with a Cook County judge on Monday to possibly work out a deal.

The controversy has became a public relations headache for the CBS-owned station. Despite ample prime-time lead-ins from CBS, the station still lags behind competitors at 10 p.m.

Though other CBS affiliates have also struggled for news ratings (WGCL in Atlanta, WOIO in Cleveland, and CBS-owned WWJ-TV – which doesn’t have a news operation at all – come to mind), CBS’ ratings for news in top markets – notably WCBS in New York and KCBS in Los Angeles, have shown improvement recently, while WBBM’s news continues to lag behind.

Recently, Antonio Mora was replaced at 10 p.m. with Rob Johnson, raising ire with several critics and viewers, essentially making Mora a scapegoat for the station’s poor late news showing.

Some have suggested that a decision to remove Burns could rankle some in the African-American community. The station certainly does not want a repeat of what happened in 1985 when the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Operation Push called for a boycott against WBBM and CBS, after the station demoted longtime anchor and reporter Harry Porterfield (who’s now at WLS-TV.)

WBBM-TV, which was number one in the ratings back then, fell to third a year later and still hasn’t recovered (though much of the credit goes to the exploding popularity of newcomers at ABC-owned WLS-TV- Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, not to mention someone at the station named Oprah Winfrey. The popularity of those shows drew new viewers to the station – and to its newscasts, and they’ve been number one ever since.)