KCBS (Channel 2) has disbanded its award-winning Special Assignments unit, reassigning its two reporters and crew to general assignment news coverage.

KCBS sources said that the shuffle, which moved reporters Randy Paige and David Goldstein from strictly Special Assignments, was part of the Viacom Inc.-owned station's move to concentrate resources on daily news coverage. No jobs were lost as part of the shift, they said.

Mike Nelson, a spokesman for Viacom's KCBS and KCAL (Channel 9), would not comment on personnel matters. He said KCBS would still produce investigative reports.

"The duopoly is adding four hours of news per week, taking us to 64 hours of news per week," he said. "We're expanding our Saturday and Sunday news on KCAL to match our weekday programming, three hours of primetime news starting Saturday (Jan. 8)."

A ratings grabber, the Special Assignment team has had an impact across the region. Its report on sanitary conditions at L.A. restaurants resulted in the county's letter rating system, and a report early last year exposed retailers that accepted returns on underwear, a practice prohibited by law.

The team was disbanded after its three-part November sweeps series exposed members of the Los Angeles International Airport Police slacking off on the job. The report prompted L.A. Mayor James Hahn to propose having the LAPD take over policing at the airport.

"One of the Special Assignments group called me the day their unit got broken up," said a former member of the team who asked to remain anonymous. "They were all really upset. I think it wasn't a total surprise to them."

The Special Assignment specials aired during the four yearly sweeps periods. The heavily promoted reports helped boost ratings during those periods, in which Nielsen Media Research surveyed household viewing habits and helped determine ad rates.

Last November marked the last of the traditional sweeps periods, with Nielsen implementing its electronic People Meters to provide daily ratings. Those devices are expected to make sweeps-oriented special reports, such as those prepared by the KCBS unit, less prominent.

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