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Amidst protests, cable news channels will come back to these gym TVs

A man wearing earphones works out at a Sports Club in Beverly Hills, Calif., while watching Fox News. The UNC Wellness Center has stopped airing all news channels in the fitness center in an effort of creating a healthier mindset.
A man wearing earphones works out at a Sports Club in Beverly Hills, Calif., while watching Fox News. The UNC Wellness Center has stopped airing all news channels in the fitness center in an effort of creating a healthier mindset. Ricardo DeAratanha

UNC Wellness Centers has overturned its ban on news programs in their two Triangle gyms, pledging to police the "disruptive behavior" they said resulted from broadcasting the channels.

The announcement came in an email Friday after many members cried censorship last month when the Chapel Hill and Cary health clubs removed CNN, Fox, MSNBC and other news programming from its television screens.

George Wayson, the executive director of the wellness centers, said in the email that the decision came after weighing both negative and supportive feedback.

"With this change, the need to prevent disruptive behavior by members against other members or staff remains very important to us. We will strictly enforce the behavior policy in the member handbook."

Alan Wolf, spokesman for UNC Health Care, declined to elaborate on the statement.

Earlier this month, officials said the idea behind the move was necessary to prevent "increasingly frequent and boisterous" arguments over channels among members and to protect staff. In January, Life Time Fitness, with gyms across the country, announced a similar news ban.

Members, though, complained that the decision amounted to dictating information and treating educated adults like children. The replacement programming, they said, often consisted of soap operas and infomercials. Members who expressed outrage over the new policy applauded its being lifted.

"It speaks to the fact that when reasonable people have reasonable discussions, good things happen," said Kevin Leibel, a management consultant and longtime member who expressed his concerns last month. "I've been a member for many years and have never seen any problems at all in the gym — a non-issue. It's a very civil group of people."

There are two locations of UNC Wellness Centers: one in the Meadowmont section of Chapel Hill and the other in northwest Cary. It recently said it has 13,000 members at all facilities, or roughly 3,000 a day.

Josh Shaffer: 919-829-4818, @joshshaffer08
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