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TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
8:01 pm
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Britt McHenry Controversy Heats Up: Headline on One Commentary Reads ‘ESPN got it wrong with Britt McHenry.’ Headline on Another Commentary Reads, ‘ESPN was totally wrong to suspend Britt McHenry.’ One says ESPN Didn’t Go Far Enough. The Other Says ESPN Went Too Far (TVWeek, NYPost, USA Today)

By Chuck Ross

Many of us, whether or not we have previously heard of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, seem to have an opinion about ESPN suspending her for seven days after her tirade at a towing company was caught on videotape and then released earlier this week on the Internet.

Here’s an example of one of the two extremely different reactions to ESPN’s suspension of McHenry, both published today, Friday, April 17, 2015:

“It sure is fun to see pretty, successful blondes taken down a notch. And to do so while expressing solidarity with the beleaguered working class? Perfect.

“Except ESPN is supposed to be a journalistic outfit. Maybe it should get both sides of the story before jumping to conclusions. Because there’s another side to this story — and it’s a lot more interesting than ‘pretty woman yells at maybe-not-so-pretty woman.’”

So says New York Post commentator and film critic Kyle Smith, whose essay is titled “ESPN was totally wrong to suspend Britt McHenry.”

Smith says the company that towed McHenry’s car, Advanced Towing, has a rating from the Better Business Bureau of “F.” Smith writes that “of 40 complaints lodged against the company in the last three years, Advanced Towing has simply ignored 37.”

Smith goes on to quote several people writing on Yelp about terrible deeds allegedly done by Advanced Towing, including towing cars for no reason.

Concludes Smith, “McHenry’s private conversation wasn’t actually any of ESPN’s business and should not even have been captured or distributed without her consent — but ESPN was terrified of the online mob and panicked.”

He continues, “ESPN should do the right thing and reinstate McHenry until it learns the whole story — or simply concede that sometimes people lose their tempers. The way McHenry talks on her worst, most frustrating day is probably how Keith Olbermann talked to his mom.”

He adds that local journalists in Arlington, Virginia, where the incident took place, should investigate what really happened to upset McHenry.

On the other end of the spectrum is a blog published by USA Today sports blogger Chris Chase, titled “ESPN got it wrong with Britt McHenry.”

Writes Chase, “Britt McHenry’s one-week suspension is an embarrassing slap on the wrist from a network that has been doling out so many harsh suspensions recently that it’s like Roger Goodell on a power trip….While Bill Simmons gets a three-week suspension for calling out his bosses and Tony Kornheiser is set aside for two weeks for commenting on Hannah Storm’s wardrobe, McHenry was shelved for just seven days for her mean, caustic diatribe. It’s a misguided system of justice: ESPN considers ESPN-on-ESPN smack-talk to be worse than ESPN sneering at the rest of the world. It’s a joke.”

Of McHenry’s apology, Chase writes, “…it’s all phony. That wasn’t the attitude of someone having a bad day. That wasn’t someone frustrated by an employee at a tow-truck operator and looking to blow off a little steam. We’ve all been there and (hopefully) didn’t denigrate the man or woman responsible for not having a degree, nor rip on a cashier for simply doing her job. A bad day is cursing at someone or driving away from that tow-truck company and flipping the bird. Those are the sort of slip-ups that make us human. What McHenry did is an attitude based on power and entitlement.”

TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
7:50 pm
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TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
2:13 pm
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New Obstacle for Comcast-TWC Merger: U.S. Antitrust Lawyers Said to Be Leaning Toward Blocking the Deal (Bloomberg)

Attorneys in the antitrust division of the U.S. Justice Department are said to be close to submitting a recommendation against the pending Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable, Bloomberg reports, citing sources who are familiar with the situation.

The story reports: “Attorneys who are investigating Comcast’s $45.2 billion proposal to create a nationwide cable giant are leaning against the merger out of concerns that consumers would be harmed and could submit their review as soon as next week, said the people.”

Top officials in the antitrust division will reportedly decide whether to file a suit in federal court to block the merger, according to sources.

Bloomberg adds: “The Justice Department lawyers have been contacting outside parties in the last few weeks to shore up evidence to support a potential case against the merger, one of the people said.”

Comcast continued to express confidence that the deal will go through. Said company spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice: “There is no basis for a lawsuit to block the transaction.”

She also said the deal “will result in significant consumer benefits — faster broadband speeds, access to a superior video experience, and more competition in business services resulting in billions of dollars of cost savings.”

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TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
2:01 pm
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Iran-Contra Figure to Host Military-Themed TV Series (TVWeek)

A former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who made a name for himself during the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s is taking over as host of the military-themed series “Saving Private K-9,” which airs on the Sportsman Channel.

The channel announced that Oliver North will be center stage when season two premieres Thursday, April 23. Since gaining a high profile during Iran-Contra, North has been a political commentator and a best-selling author, and has hosted Fox News Channel’s “War Stories with Oliver North.”

The show’s original host was R. Lee Ermey.

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TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
1:57 pm
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New Bruckheimer Drama Series in the Works (TVWeek)

A new drama series from mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer — whose track record includes the “CSI” franchise, “Without a Trace” and “The Amazing Race” — is in development at Spike TV.

The cable channel announced it’s working with Bruckheimer and Warner Horizon Television to develop “Harvest.”

“Centering on a father who turns to a life of crime to protect a dark family secret, ‘Harvest’ marks Spike’s first scripted deal with a major studio and is the network’s latest venture in creating big and bold entertainment for a gender-balanced audience,” the cable net says in its announcement.

The project is written by Ian Sobel & Matt Morgan (“12 Monkeys,” “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series”), with Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman as executive producers. KristieAnne Reed is co-executive producer. The project comes from Jerry Bruckheimer Television in association with Warner Horizon Television.

“’Harvest’ centers on a mild-mannered cemetery caretaker who finds his small town life in jeopardy when his estranged, criminal father tracks him down,” the announcement notes. “In order to protect his teenage daughter from the dark secret of her past, the caretaker teams up with his sworn paternal enemy to deal in the illegal tissue trade.”

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TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
1:17 pm
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Instagram Gets Tough on Nudity (PCMag)

Social media site Instagram dealt a setback to the “Free the Nipple” movement, issuing new guidelines that include a ban on nudity.

PCMag reports that the site, owned by Facebook, is taking a “stronger stance against photos that it deems inappropriate.”

According to the report, the new guidelines state: “We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature. But for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram.”

PCMag adds: “Specifically, that includes photos, videos, and some digitally created content showing sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully nude buttocks.”

The ban on female nipples has some exceptions, according to the report, such as photos of post-mastectomy scarring and of women breastfeeding, along with some nudity in photographs of paintings and sculptures.

The PCMag story adds: “The move comes after celebrities like Miley Cyrus joined the so-called ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign, which protests what supporters call a double standard on Instagram regarding nudity: shirtless men are allowed, but shirtless women are not.”

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TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
10:01 am
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Breaking Up the Bundle: Verizon Takes a Leap Toward True a la Carte TV (WSJ)

Verizon has taken what may be the single biggest step toward true a la carte television, even as a growing number of competitors line up to challenge the traditional TV bundle.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the company’s new FiOS TV packages will give customers flexibility in picking and choosing which groups of channels they want to watch — and are willing to pay for.

The move comes as an increasing number of over-the-top streaming services — from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others — are offering alternatives to traditional pay TV.

“Starting April 19, consumers will be able to sign up for a slim package of TV channels that includes broadcasters such as ABC and Fox, as well as CNN, AMC, Food Network and others. They can then add on ‘channel packs’ covering various genres, such as sports, kids, pop culture and lifestyle,” WSJ reports.

The lowest-level plan will carry a price tag of $55 a month, which comes with two channel packs, the report notes. Additional packages, typically of about 10 to 17 channels, can be added for $10. Plans will allow for switching channel packages after 30 days.

Verizon FiOS currently has about 5 million video customers, the report notes.

The article quotes Verizon FiOS President Tami Erwin saying: “Customers want flexibility to turn channels on and turn channels off.”

Similar services aimed at cord cutters are in the works or have already arrived. The report notes that Dish Network’s Sling TV offers a service built on a $20 core package, which enables customers to mix and match channel tiers to be added, while Apple TV is readying a service for fall that will begin with a “skinny” channel bundle.

Like these services, the new Verizon plan falls short of a true a la carte model — a model that Erwin said might end up costing consumers more.

“While this is not all-the-way a la carte, customers have the ability to consolidate and collapse the kind of content they want to view,” Erwin added.

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TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
9:47 am
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The End of an Era: Broadcast Net Pulls the Plug on the Longest-Running Variety Show in TV History (Variety)

A television program that has been airing since 1962 has been canceled. After 53 years on the air, “Sabado Gigante” will wrap it up in September, Univision announced.

The Spanish-language program, hosted by Chilean TV star Mario Kreutzberger — who goes by Don Francisco on the program — is said to be the longest-running variety show in history. The show first launched on Canal 13 in Chile.

Univision anounced today that the show will end its run Sept. 19, Variety reports. Kreutzberger will reportedly stay with Univision to host specials and explore new projects.

Said Randy Falco, president and CEO of Univision Communications: “During my 40 years in the industry I have met few people with the same energy, creativity and passion for television and the audience as Mario, and I join in celebrating him and his team at ‘Sabado Gigante’ for the great success and the milestones achieved in broadcast television.”

“Sabado Gigante” translates to “Gigantic Saturday.”

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TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
9:44 am
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Country Star Stirs Up a Hornet’s Nest Over Sandy Hook Concert (AP, Fox411)

One of the biggest stars of country music has fired up advocates on both sides of the gun control issue. Tim McGraw is being accused by gun rights advocates of turning his back on the Constitution, while he also appears to have gained some fans on the other side of the issue.

McGraw stepped into the controversy by agreeing to perform a concert July 17 in Hartford, Conn., to benefit Sandy Hook Promise, a group that works to protect children from gun violence. The group formed after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 first-graders and six educators died.

The AP reports that gun rights advocates took to social media to call McGraw a hypocrite for appearing at what they’re calling a “gun control fundraiser.”

The scheduled opening act, Billy Currington, pulled out of the event, saying he wanted to avoid controversy.

McGraw released a statement to Fox411 saying: “Let me be clear regarding the concert for Sandy Hook given much of the erroneous reporting thus far. As a gun owner, I support gun ownership. I also believe that with gun ownership comes the responsibility of education and safety — most certainly when it relates to what we value most, our children. I can’t imagine anyone who disagrees with that.”

McGraw also said: “”The concert is meant to do something good for a community that is recovering.”

Currington put out his own statement on the event, saying in part: “I’ve never been one to take on controversial issues — I’m a singer. I do feel strongly about honoring and supporting the Sandy Hook community and will be making a donation to a local organization.”

A sampling of social media comments posted on the Fox411 site includes this one: “Sad that you’ve chosen to turn your back on American Rights. Please take off that hat.”

And on the other side of the issue: “Thank you @TheTimMcGraw! What you’re doing is awesome! I’m not a country fan, but def a fan of yours now!!”

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TVBIZWIRE
Apr 17, 2015
9:21 am
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Physicians Want Dr. Oz Removed From Post (AP)

TV doctor Mehmet Oz has come under fire for what his critics are calling an “egregious lack of integrity” and for promoting what they call “quack treatments,” the AP reports.

The host of the syndicated program “The Dr. Oz Show,” produced by Harpo Studios and distributed by Sony Pictures TV Distribution, is the target of a letter sent to Columbia University by 10 physicians who are seeking to have Oz removed from his faculty position with the university.

Among other accusations, the physicians say Oz is pushing “miracle” supplements for weight loss, despite an absence of proof of their effectiveness. In the letter they write: “Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine.”

Columbia responded with a statement provided to the AP saying the school “is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”

The physicians group is headed by Dr. Henry Miller of Stanford University.

The AP reports: “The doctors wrote that Oz, for years a world-class Columbia cardiothoracic surgeon, ‘has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.’ They said he has ‘misled and endangered’ the public.”

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