Courts

WFAA Leaned On Baylor Health Care to Fire Ad Agency Over Dispute, Lawsuit Claims

A Grapevine ad agency is accusing WFAA of throwing its weight around and scuttling a relationship with its biggest client. Ann Page-Cahill of AP Commnications filed suit against WFAA's parent company, Belo Corp. and her former client, Baylor Health Care system in district court Tuesday, claiming Baylor cut her firm loose over an alleged overcharging dispute with WFAA.

Cahill claims she called WFAA out when it attempted to "deceive and overcharge" one of her clients. She says she confronted one of the news station's ad salespeople during a heated meeting that devolved into a yelling match between her and a sales manager.

After the meeting, she claims WFAA vice president Dave Muscari placed a call to Baylor's top public relations manager. The complaint says he "made statements about Ms. Cahill that were designed and intended to destroy her professional reputation and relationship with BCHS." Belo exerts serious influence over Baylor Health, she says, because it "decides whether or not to report to the public unfavorable news about BCHS."

It claims Nikki Mitchell, Baylor Health's vice president of public relations, has "striven to persuade WFAA not to run unflattering stories about BCHS."

And so, in July, Cahill says Baylor Health advised her that it was terminating their contract, for reasons she alleges are pretextual and "demonstrably untrue." In fact, she claims a Baylor Health employee told her at one point it was because of "the WFAA thing."

Cahill is now suing Baylor Health for breach of contract and for allegedly failing to pay for ads AP Communications placed on its behalf. She's also suing Belo Corp. for interfering with her contract with Baylor Health. The complaint seeks unspecified damages.

A spokesperson for Belo Corp. said she had not seen the complaint and wouldn't comment. We haven't heard back from Baylor Health as of this posting, but we'll update as soon as we do.

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Brantley Hargrove

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