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How Moguls Meet-It Suits Them to a T

May 23, 2005 12:00 AM

When News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch made his presentation of the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award to Viacom's Sumner Redstone at the UJA-Federation of New York dinner last week in New York, he began by explaining how the two moguls met: "Sumner says the way to get to know someone and to make a lifelong friend is to sue him. Ask many of those here tonight. I can vouch for this." In his acceptance speech, Mr. Redstone, chairman of Viacom, said that anyone who reads the news would think Mr. Murdoch "is my nemesis." The fact is, he said, "We are engaged in take-no-prisoners conflicts at times … but let me set the record straight. We may have filed a few [lawsuits] with his name on it, [but] I respect his truthfulness and his competitive spirit. … I can now say it: Rupert is my friend." Mr. Murdoch noted that Mr. Redstone has mellowed over the years: "Sumner is now so relaxed he allows his driver to stop at yellow lights." --ALEX BEN BLOCK



Quiet Time for the Chairman

It's been more than eight weeks since Kevin Martin was promoted to chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, but he has yet to brief the media on his agenda. The agency, once a virtual publicity machine, has all but disappeared from newspaper headlines. Industry insiders say that it's not that Mr. Martin is lacking in ambition or backbone; he's just lacking a Republican majority. With the agency currently split with two Republicans and two Democrats, he can't do much of anything except contain the Democrats-and pray that the White House will soon give him his majority. "He is avoiding the press for a good reason," said Jim Quello, a former FCC chairman and commissioner. "If he can't bring anything up, he doesn't have anything to say." Sources also attribute the skinniness of the agency's action calendar in part to Mr. Martin's insistence on personally reviewing items that might generate unexpected controversy-audits he won't have to do once he gets his own staff in place. --DOUG HALONEN



Nonstory

On the Friday before the start of the upfronts, ABC hastily scheduled a last-minute press conference call for the following Monday morning, a mere hour before NBC was slated to unveil its fall lineup. No one knew what was up, particularly not NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, who called his friend ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson to find out. (There was no word on whether colorful language ensued.) Someone familiar with the conversation said Mr. McPherson "seemed unclear about details" of the conference call but soon realized the scheduling was unmanageable for the press. So within a couple of hours the ABC call was canceled "due to scheduling conflicts." Days later there was still no answer to what it was to have been about. Conspiracy theorists suggested that ABC, feeling its prime-time oats this season, just wanted to jerk once-dominant NBC's chain, but that scenario was dismissed as not being ABC's kind of game. When ABC gathered the press last Tuesday morning to unveil its lineup Mr. McPherson said ABC had "jumped the gun" on a deal having nothing to do with the upfront and explained that the deal would be announced in a "week or two." Talk about your anticlimax: It turns out, according to a source, the call was supposed to reveal that the Country Music Association Awards is ending its 23-year relationship with CBS and moving to ABC in November 2006-a story reported by Daily Variety a week earlier. --MICHELE GREPPI