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Duck! It's 'Hardball'

March 6, 2006 12:00 AM

MSNBC's Chris Matthews will throw out the first hardball of the 2008 presidential election season when he sets up Friday in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., the site of the Southern Republican Leadership Convention-a political beauty pageant for candidate wannabes from 13 states. Mr. Matthews will do live shows at 5, 7 and 11 p.m. (ET) Friday, webcasts on MSNBC.com and work the crowd of some 2,000 party faithful and hopefuls. But he's also planning to make time for a little fun with the Peabody's most famous residents: a paddling of ducks that spend the day in the lobby fountain. "The duckmaster is going to explain how they train the ducks and get them to come down on the elevator and go to the fountain," said Tammy Haddad, "Hardball" executive producer and MSNBC prime-time political director. She joked that while the political publication Hotline will take the first straw poll of the 2008 presidential season, "Hardball" also will watch the ducks for political preferences: "We'll see which candidates they most respond to." Indeed, a producer will blog about the ducks, whose second march of the day will occur some 45 minutes into the 5 o'clock show (slo-mo repeats are promised during the later shows). "Even though it's a very important weekend and historically quite significant, we can have a little fun with politics," Ms. Haddad said. "That's what we do at 'Hardball.'"-MICHELE GREPPI



A Pro Court

Court TV is carving up its trial niche into ever-smaller slivers. Last year the network introduced its first online product, a $5.95 monthly subscription service called Court TV Extra, to deliver additional trials via the Internet. And starting with the latest Vioxx trial that begins today, the network will reach further into the new longtail of content when it introduces Court TV Pro. The new online service will offer even more finely targeted trials-business-oriented ones priced a la carte for legal professionals and financial analysts (think cases with lots of money at stake). Court TV Pro is a joint venture with Courtroom Connect, a tech services firm for the legal industry that will wire the courtrooms. Court TV will provide the marketing heft and online shelf space on its Web site. The network will also package CDs and DVDs with courtroom testimony and transcripts from the trials. The Court TV Extra service, which launched May 2005, has grown its subscription numbers eightfold, the network said. -Daisy Whitney



Mixed Signals

Deborah Taylor Tate, the Federal Communications Commission's new Republican commissioner, told broadcasters attending the National Association of Broadcasters state leadership conference in Washington last week that she welcomed opening a dialogue with them. But the open-door policy did not extend to the press in attendance. In an apparent effort to avoid reporters seeking clarification of her remarks, she left the Mandarin Oriental Hotel ballroom by a side door-then declined comment when reporters caught up with her anyway. One of her legal assistants, Andrew Law, even threw a forearm into the chest of a TVWeek reporter who attempted to board the elevator with the departing commissioner and her staffers. Mr. Law subsequently declined to comment on the encounter. And to think Ms. Tate said during her remarks to the NAB that video game violence "concerns me as a mother."-Doug Halonen