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'NightTalk' host may leave PCNC

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PCNC's "NightTalk" host John McIntire says he'll leave the WPXI-owned cable outlet sometime before the end of the year due to "the inability to come to successful contract negotiations."

But his boss, WPXI general manager Ray Carter, said he's unaware of McIntire's plans to depart.

"There's always room for negotiation," Carter said. "I think it's premature to assume anything. ... We have not failed to reach an agreement on contract terms."

McIntire celebrated the seven-year anniversary of his show last month.

"I believe my job all along has been to create buzz, and I've done that," he said. "But times are lean. It's a George Bush economy and they want to make as much money as they can. Apparently, relieving them of what's a large salary for this place will help them, or so they believe."

Carter confirmed that the current economic equation doesn't work, "but we're trying to find a way" to keep McIntire at PCNC.

McIntire's "NightTalk" is one of the few live local TV talk shows in Pittsburgh and has a small but loyal following among viewers who tune in to see McIntire banter with guests and deliver a self-proclaimed "scintillating commentary" at the end of the show several times each week.

But it hasn't been without controversy. McIntire's dogged denunciation of President Bush likely alienated some viewers. He regularly engages in an on-air war of words with fellow PCNC chat show host Fred Honsberger. And at a bar last summer, WPXI anchor Gina Redmond slapped McIntire's girlfriend, Roberta Petterson, a former WPXI producer who now works at WTAE. In the legal dust-up that ensued, McIntire fell out of favor with some staffers at Channel 11.

McIntire said he was told by station management that last year's sturm und drang had nothing to do with his departure.

"Nah, that was, like, six crises ago," he said.

He's had discussions with at least two other Pittsburgh outlets, believed to be KDKA-TV and WQED-TV.

"I'd rather stay in Pittsburgh, but I'm looking in and out of the market just because it's common sense that I should," he said.

Whether or not he lands another local gig, McIntire will likely be off the air for six months to a year, in accordance with the noncompete clause found in most TV anchors' contracts.

Should he and the station part company, McIntire acknowledged he would miss the show. "It offered a ridiculous amount of freedom," he said. "It's fun being one of the few on-the-air Bush-bashers anywhere in the country. It had its quirky, low-rent ridiculousness, but there were some fun traditions we created."

Carter said whatever the outcome, a local talk show will continue to air in the "NightTalk" time slot, but, he added, "we are not currently exploring a lot of different options other than working out a deal with John."


Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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