Ad Agency Claims Belo Corp. Retaliated

     DALLAS (CN) – An ad agency claims in court that Belo Corp., through its WFAA-TV station, retaliated against the agency’s accusations of overbilling clients by causing Baylor Health Care System to fire the firm.
     AP Communications sued Belo Corp. and Baylor Health Care System in Dallas County Court. AP describes itself in the complaint as a small ad agency. It apparently has no relation to The Associated Press, which also is known as AP.
     AP claims that it worked Baylor for 9 years, placing broadcast, print and Internet ads.
     Baylor was firm’s largest client by far, AP says.
     But in March, AP president Ann Page-Cahill confronted accused the TV station of trying to “deceive and to overcharge one of the plaintiff’s clients,” the complaint states.”
     “During the meetings, a sales manager of WFAA named Craig Whitman became very angry and yelled at Ms. Cahill. Ms. Cahill did not back down and, indeed, she yelled back at him,” according to the complaint.
     AP claims the station’s vice-president of product development, Dave Muscari, then contacted Baylor’s vice-president of public relations, Nikki Mitchell, and “made statements about Ms. Cahill that were designed to and intended to destroy her professional reputation and her relationship with BHCS.”
     Neither Muscari, Mitchell nor Cahill are named as parties to the complaint.
     Belo, as the owner of WFAA, has tremendous influence over Baylor because it can choose whether and what news about Baylor to report, the complaint states.
     AP claims Baylor fired it on July 19, ending a relationship of 9 years.
     “The reason given for the termination was demonstrably untrue and an obvious pretext,” the complaint states. “In a more candid moment, an employee of BHCS admitted to Ms. Cahill that the true reason for the termination of plaintiff’s agency agreement was ‘the whole WFAA thing.'”
     Dallas-based Belo owns 20 YV stations, including properties in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Seattle-Tacoma, Phoenix, St. Louis, and Portland, and two regional cable news channels – Texas Cable News and NorthWest Cable News, according to its website.
     Dallas-based Baylor Health Care System owns or is affiliated with 30 hospitals that operate as part of its 300-location network, according to its website.
     AP seeks actual and punitive damages for breach of contract, anticipatory repudiation by Baylor and tortious interference by Belo.
     It is represented by James A. Fisher with Fisher Holmes of Dallas.

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