10:46pm PT by Alex Ben Block
Kurt the CyberGuy Sues KTLA for Breach of Contract, Age Discrimination
Kurt Knutsson, known professionally as Kurt the CyberGuy, filed a lawsuit Monday against KTLA, the Tribune TV station in Los Angeles, and at least eight other TV stations (including WPIX in New York and WGN in Chicago), for breach of contract, misappropriation of his name and likeness, unfair competition and age discrimination.
Knutsson says in the suit that he started his relationship with KTLA in 1995 after he established himself as an expert reporter on technology. He agreed to provide his services and reporting in return for exposure and technical support, for less than his usual fee. Within two years, his reports were also being syndicated to about two dozen other TV stations.
He signed a five-year deal with KTLA in 2008, but in December 2010, Knutsson says his contract was suddenly terminated. He says two KTLA executives told him they would renegotiate but he would be paid less.
Instead, in February 2011, he got a phone call from KTLA news director Jason Ball and a Tribune human resources person who told him he would no longer appear on the station at all, and that they would notify the other stations that his relationship with them had come to an end.
Despite being let go, Knutsson says his name and image continued for some time on the TV station’s websites, but when a viewer clicked on the link, they were shown consumer technology reports by Rich DeMuro instead, that were broadcast from the same studio as CyberGuy, with the same format and style
KTLA and the other stations never announced his departure to viewers. He says they also “manipulated content descriptions (keywords and metatags) in order to produce misleading results from common search engines so persons seeking Knutsson were routed to (DeMuro).”
“KTLA derived millions of dollars in net revenue from new business in respect of CyberGuy broadcast programming,” says the suit, “but KTLA failed and refused and continues to refuse to pay (Knutsson)” the 20 percent of those revenues he should receive.
He also charges “the decision to terminate Knutsson’s employment was motivated … particularly during the last years of his employment by a company bias against age, specifically with regard to on-air talent.”
Knutsson is seeking unspecified damages and legal costs.
When reached by phone, Ball said he had not yet seen the suit and on behalf of KTLA and Tribune declined to comment.