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Click Those Gold Clogs for Luck, Martha!

May 9, 2005 12:00 AM

No, Martha Stewart is not showing off the electronic-monitoring ankle bracelet she has to wear for five months as a condition of her probation following a conviction for lying about a stock trade. She was showing off her footwear during a press conference May 2 in New York with producer Mark Burnett and others to announce details about "Martha," her syndie strip that launches Sept. 12. Ms. Stewart teased the audience of advertisers and press by hiking a pant leg to show off her shiny gold clogs, which she called "my lucky shoes." That made Blink wonder why they were lucky, so we put in a call to Ms. Stewart and her reps ... and another call ... or three. Finally, we got a cryptic response. The shoes are lucky, we were told, because they were a gift from a colleague. But why does that make them lucky? No other info was available, Blink was told. So we will wait for September and hope that Ms. Stewart wears her gold clogs again and that someone happens to ask why they are so lucky. Maybe the answer is simply "They are not prison issue"-but we're only speculating. --ALEX BEN BLOCK and MICHELE GREPPI

Pilot Prevention

Normally at this time of year, despite the major networks' effort to control circulation, there is an informal pipeline among agents, managers and executives for video tapes of pilots under consideration for the fall. This year, however, sources say the exchange has virtually halted. CBS, under Leslie Moonves, has long been like Fort Knox, keeping a tight lid on any leaks. Now other networks are keeping pilot tapes under tight controls as well. They're concerned about negative buzz harming their projects. Post-production staffers have been warned illicit copying can carry legal ramifications, while talent agents, eager to see their clients' work, have been given limited access or have been told to attend private, network-approved screenings. The secrecy has some industry insiders fuming. "It all gets out anyway," said one exec, noting that by mid-May the pilots will be seen industrywide. "If it's a good pilot," fumed the exec, "it doesn't really matter." --CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

Lightning Rod

Last week a group called the New Millennium Research Council, founded in 1999, issued a study that made a case for media ownership deregulation. "Overly restrictive federal ownership guidelines seeking to remedy ... misplaced concerns about media ownership and content are now dysfunctional fixes for a phantom problem," a press release quoted the author, Benjamin Compaine, as saying. What the release didn't say is that the council is an arm of Capitol veteran Sam Simon's for-profit political consulting group, Issue Dynamics, whose list of "past and present" clients includes, according to its Web site, Verizon, Comcast and SBC Communications.

Mr. Simon, who began his career as a consumer watchdog, is a lightning rod because he continues to operate on both sides of the fence, heading a watchdog group, the Telecommunications Research & Action Center, while also working on behalf of big corporations. As for this study, Mr. Simon would say only that it was sponsored by a client whose identity is confidential. "I hope it will promote close scrutiny," said Mr. Simon, "and will provoke robust discussion among those who agree and disagree with it." That isn't the way it appears to some watchdog groups battling media concentration and deregulation. As Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, put it: "Such industry-sponsored studies must be dismissed as pure propaganda." --DOUG HALONEN