Cox, Raycom impasse impacting more than just viewers
While negotiations between Cox Communications and Raycom Media over retransmission fees continue to languish—a stalemate that has left local Cox subscribers unable to watch CBS shows on WAFB Channel 9, which is owned by Raycom—local advertising executives say viewers are not the only ones hurting. “This is financially disastrous for a lot of people,” says veteran ad executive Gerald Garrison. “Cox subscribers are being penalized because they are not able to watch WAFB. Advertisers are not able to reach their market.” Garrison does not have any clients with ads currently running on WAFB, though he has in the past. What makes the dynamics of the situation particularly challenging for advertisers is that WAFB and Cox both dominate the Baton Rouge market. WAFB’s local news attracts more than twice as many viewers as the competing stations and Cox brings television to more than 50% of Baton Rouge households. Still, it’s not as dire a situation as it could have been a few years ago. Garrison and others say online and social media sites are providing advertisers with new venues. “There are so many ways to get the message out now it doesn’t faze me,” says Saundra Lane, whose agency handles the advertising for the family’s auto dealerships. “I can advertise a dozen other places.” Lane is not currently running spots on WAFB. Raycom corporate executives, who are handling negotiations, did not respond to a request for comment. WAFB General Manager Sandy Breland issued a statement to Daily Report, saying: "We know our viewers are frustrated, and we share their frustration. Our advertisers are understandably very interested in developments, and we take our commitment to our advertisers seriously. They have been supportive, and we are working with them to alleviate their concerns." —Stephanie Riegel
Editor's note: Because of incorrect information provided to Daily Report, an earlier version of this story had an inaccuracy. In fact, none of Gerald Garrison’s clients presently have advertising buys in place on WAFB. Daily Report regrets the error.
NFL playoff game on CBS available in some B.R. establishments
In light of the ongoing negotiations with Raycom Media to get CBS programming back to Cox Cable customers in Baton Rouge, a Cox spokesperson says one option for customers wanting to watch the NFL playoff game on Sunday is to buy a high-definition TV antennae. However, some area bar and restaurant owners are offering a less-expensive alternative: Watch the game at their place. Brewbacher's is among those that will have the game for customers. "I don't have Cox. I have Eatel," says owner Beau Dicharry, which means his establishments throughout Baton Rouge aren't affected by the standoff between Cox and Raycom—the parent company of local CBS affiliate, WAFB Channel 9. When Walk-On's first opened, co-owner Jack Warner wanted to cover all of his bases. The bar and restaurant has both Cox and DirecTV—including its NFL package. "I couldn't tell you all the legalese," Warner says of the Cox-Raycom negotiations, adding: "We checked it out; we're good to go." Warner says the game will be available at both Walk-On's and the Schlittz & Giggles on Perkins Road. Being thwarted from watching on one's own home television Sunday's game between the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens might not create an uproar among local sports fans. But what would the scenario be if the squabble between the cable and broadcast providers took place before an LSU-Florida matchup on CBS? "They would figure it out before kickoff," Warner says. A deal between Cox and Raycom will likely come well before the fall, as CBS is slated to broadcast the NFL Super Bowl on Feb. 3. —Matt Randolph
Jindal makes appointments to Board of Regents, Southern University board
Gov. Bobby Jindal today announced appointments to the Board of Regents and the Board of Supervisors of Southern University that feature a number of well-known Capital Region residents. Among the Board of Regents appointments are Richard Lipsey, founder and CEO of Lipsey's Inc. Also appointed to the board are Joel Dupre and Edward Markle, both of New Orleans, as well as Robert Levy of Vienna and Mark Abraham of Lake Charles. For the board overseeing Southern, Jindal has appointed Leon Tarver of Baton Rouge, who serves as executive administrator of the Center of Cultural Heritage and International Programs at Southern University System. Another local reappointee to the board is Antonio "Tony" Clayton of Port Allen, who is senior partner at the law firm of Clayton and Fruge and an assistant district attorney of the 18th Judicial District. Other appointments to the Southern board announced by Jindal today are Michael Small of Slidell, Raymond Fondel Jr. of Lake Charles, and Rev. Joe Rascoe Gant Jr. of Shreveport. All appointments are subject to state Senate confirmation. Jindal has also named eight members to the University of Louisiana System Board, including Robert Shreve of Baton Rouge, CEO of Gulf South Business Systems. That story can be found here.
Visit Baton Rouge looks into getting more BP oil spill money
Visit Baton Rouge may have a chance at a share of an estimated $7.8 billion for damages from the 2010 BP oil spill. The tourism agency's board on Tuesday will consider finalizing a contract with New Orleans attorney Kurt Offner to pursue a claim tied to the Deepwater Horizon economic and property damage settlement agreement, which U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier approved last month. Visit Baton Rouge President/CEO Paul Arrigo says VBR has been notified by the state hotel/motel association that the tourism promotion board might be eligible to receive a slice of the funds. "We're doing due diligence and trying to get what might be out there so we can better market the city," Arrigo says. "I have no idea how much it could be." The settlement has no cap; BP reportedly has estimated it will pay $7.8 billion to resolve economic and medical claims from more than 100,000 businesses and individuals affected by the spill. Visit Baton Rouge already has been granted nearly $1 million in two separate allocations tied to the spill. Tuesday's meeting is open to the public and will take place beginning at noon at VBR's downtown offices, 359 Third St. —David Jacobs
Government St. building eyed as new location for restaurant and bar
Gretna bar owner Toni Smith says she plans to open The Fourth Quarter restaurant and bar in the vacant building at 3669 Government St., just east of Acadian Thruway, by the end of February. "It's going to be American: steaks, fries and hamburgers," says Smith, who spoke to Daily Report from the Tee Kay Place in Gretna. While the Baton Rouge building location has been a Chinese eatery in the past—China Palace in 2003 and China Dragon as recently as 2007—it underwent a transformation as a Mid City sports bar and restaurant in recent years. According to city-parish officials, The 50 Yard Line had the building rezoned to accommodate a sports bar in October 2009; the building later became Changes Sports Bar and Restaurant, whose signage still remains on the property. In May 2012 the city-parish received a permit for a remodeling project at the building, which had been damaged by fire. Smith applied for a business permit on Dec. 4 and says she's awaiting approval from the parish Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Gaming Enforcement before moving forward. A notice on Smith's intent has been posted on the building by the ABC department. —Adam Pearson
CATS rolls out GPS system
Baton Rouge's transit system won't be getting more buses or adding new routes anytime soon. But beginning this month, CATS riders will be better able to estimate their notoriously long waits, thanks to an app that will enable passengers to hone in—in real time—on the exact location of their bus and determine when it will arrive at the stop. The new system, which is technically up and running but will not be officially rolled out until later this month, is made possible by GPS devices that were recently installed in all 57 CATS buses. Riders will be able to download an app to their mobile devices that will show them where their buses are and how long until they pass. "It isn't a silver bullet," says CATS board Chairman Jared Loftus. "But it will make the system more efficient. It opens up a lot of possibilities for us." Loftus says the GPS system will be as useful for CATS management as it is for riders. Previously, there was no precise way to measure the locations and travel times of buses or to estimate wait times. "I'm of the opinion that what gets measured gets done," he says. "Now we'll have data that we can measure so we can make improvements." CATS directors approved a $1.4 million contract to purchase and install the GPS system on buses last spring, and Loftus says it was paid for with federal grant money. The costs associated with operating the system, however, will come out of the CATS operating budget, which is funded in part by the controversial 10.6-mill property tax approved by voters in Baton Rouge and Baker last year. —Stephanie Riegel
Jindal creating a task force to assess school safety
Gov. Bobby Jindal is forming a 13-member study group to review safety standards at Louisiana schools and colleges in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. Jindal issued an executive order today creating the group, which will be led by Col. Mike Edmonson, head of the Louisiana State Police, and Jimmy LeBlanc, secretary of the corrections department. The governor is asking the group to assess current safety programs at public and private schools from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as at colleges and universities around the state. According to the order, the task force will suggest improvements that can be made by state agencies and will recommend to lawmakers any statutory changes it thinks are necessary, in advance of the regular legislative session that begins in April. On Dec. 21, Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, asked U.S. Rep. John Schroder, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, to convene a committee meeting early this year to review school safety laws in light of the recent school shooting in Newton, Conn.
'225': Claim Your Journey founder aims to get people all over La. moving
When he was little, Brandon Williams could be spotted running around the playground at Wildwood Elementary School in cowboy boots, not Nikes. Then he played BREC basketball. The coach said to his mother, Patricia Williams, "Do you see how Brandon gets to the other end of the court? Brandon should be running [track]." "It was always, 'Brandon should be running,' " Patricia Williams recalls. And he did run. But now, Brandon Williams' passion is squarely dialed into getting other people to run. They don't even have to go fast, he insists. Just get the feet above the ground. His toughest convert? Mom. But he's eternally positive. He keeps on trying. "That lady is stubborn," he says. "I don't think my body can handle all that pounding in running," she protests. And yet, she is exercising, she adds. She's doing Zumba—and boot camp, too. She works out way more than she might be if her son wasn't the unofficial mayor of running in Louisiana. Read the full feature by Amy Alexander in the new issue of 225 magazine here.
Edwin and Trina Edwards to star in new reality TV show
It was only a matter of time—in fact, 225 magazine sort of predicted this. After hinting back in 2011 that he and then-fiancée Trina Grimes Scott were shopping around for a reality show, former Gov. Edwin Edwards and his wife are now set to star in a docu-series that premieres next month on A&E. According to Entertainment Weekly, The Governor's Wife will focus on 34-year-old Trina's life with 85-year-old Edwards, including her adjustment to his busy social schedule, interacting with her 60-something stepdaughters as well as her own teenage sons—and whatever other juicy drama ensues in this TV-ready family. After finishing an eight-year stint in federal prison in January 2011, Edwards capitalized on his widespread popularity among Louisianans with a book tour and public appearances that included serving as the grand marshal of the Rice Festival parade in his hometown of Crowley. The new reality show will become part of a basic cable lineup that already includes a number of Louisiana-set shows, such as Swamp People, Cajun Pawn Stars and A&E's own Duck Dynasty. The Governor's Wife is slated to premiere Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 9 p.m. local time. —Benjamin Leger
News roundup: Congress approves $9.7B in Sandy flood aid … La. weekly unemployment insurance claims drop … LSU safety Reid leaving for NFL draft … Joe Montana's son to play QB for Tulane
Green relief: The new U.S. Congress today passed a $9.7 billion bill to help pay flood insurance claims to homeowners, renters and businesses damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The bill cleared the Senate following passage earlier today by the House. It replenishes the National Flood Insurance Program that was due to run out of money next week with some 115,000 Sandy-related claims as well as 5,000 from other floods unresolved. Votes are planned later this month on another $51 billion aid package.
By the numbers: First-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending Dec. 29 fell from the previous week's total, mainly because the Christmas holidays cut a day from the work week. State labor department figures released today show the initial claims decreased to 2,505 from the previous week's total of 3,495. The four-week moving average, which is a less volatile measure of claims, fell to 3,262 from the previous week's total of 3,648. New claims and continued claims were both below the level of the same week in December 2011.
A safe bet: LSU safety Eric Reid will forgo his final season of eligibility and will make himself available for the 2013 NFL Draft, the junior announced today. Reid, a first-team All-America selection in 2012, is joining LSU junior linebacker Kevin Minter in making himself available for the draft. "I've been very fortunate and blessed to have been able to play football at LSU," Reid says in a statement. The full story is here. Also, several media reports say LSU running back Spencer Ware, punter Brad Wing and cornerback Tharold Simon are also headed to the NFL Draft.
Montana in New Orleans: Tulane says it has received a national letter of intent from junior college quarterback Nick Montana, the son of Hall-of-Fame NFL quarterback Joe Montana. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound younger Montana threw for 2,652 yards and 22 touchdowns this past season at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. Green Wave coach Curtis Johnson says bringing Montana in was among his top goals for what will be his second recruiting class.