Unraveling the Browns TV Situation

Quite a bit more light has been shed on the dispute between the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Raycom Media’s WOIO/19, the local CBS affiliate.

The sunlight comes from a Tony Grossi article in this morning’s Cleveland Plain Dealer, where he clears up some of the confusion about that controversial 911 call…which prompted Browns owner Randy Lerner to move to sever the team’s ties with WOIO.

In his first direct comments on the matter, Lerner confirmed that the 911 call incident was the sole reason he’s trying to cut loose from the last two years of the team’s 3 year contract with WOIO for pre-season games and other Browns programming.

Lerner tells Grossi that first and foremost, no matter what happens, the Browns’ pre-season games will air on local TV this year. That’s really never been in question, as the team has at least one very eager suitor (WEWS/5 – which Grossi confirms has offered to take over the rights)…but Lerner had to say it to calm the nerves of diehard Browns fans.

He also says that if it’s decided that the Browns are legally bound by their contract with Channel 19, they’ll abide by the contract…and they won’t go after a resolution that would deprive the team’s fans of seeing the games. “If we have to do business with them, then we’ll do business with them. But if we don’t have to, great,” Lerner tells Grossi.

Grossi indicates that the Browns could end up buying their way out of the WOIO contract, and if forced to allow WOIO to air the games, the team could still pursue ending its endorsement of the station’s other Browns-related programming.

Despite saying he’ll “do business” with Channel 19 if forced to do so legally, Lerner is clearly still seething at Reserve Square, nearly ten days after telling them to get lost.

“I just don’t know how you do business with people that do that to you,” the Browns owner tells the Plain Dealer…saying the organization is “disgusted and shocked” with WOIO’s actions. And he tells Grossi that the matter is very personal to him, considering it involves his family. “This is strictly a matter of dignity and trying to do what’s right by my sister and by my mom.”

As for the 911 call from Lerner’s sister, today’s report says that a part of the call was also aired by FOX’s WJW/8, though not the “gruesome” part Grossi says ran on “19 Action News”.

WKYC/3 and WEWS/5, after much internal discussion, decided to not to air any part of the call. WJW’s Mike Renda said they wanted to be “respectful” of Mr. Lerner and his family, and felt comfortable with the part of the call they did air.

Too busy trying to save his job, WOIO/WUAB general manager Bill Applegate was not available for comment in the newspaper…

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