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Briefly Noted

Feb 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

GE lays off 95 employees at NBC and CNBC
General Electric, looking to trim about 8 percent to 10 percent of its media-related work force by the end of this month, sent out pink slips Thursday to up to 95 employees at NBC’s West Coast headquarters, CNBC.com and the CNBC cable network. About 50 out of 600-plus employees, or 8 percent of NBC’s West Coast operations (including NBC Entertainment, NBC Enterprises and NBC Studios), are being laid off at the Peacock Network’s Burbank, Calif., headquarters.
CNBC is laying off 25 of its 100 CNBC.com staff members and is cutting 20 people from its 520-person cable-network staff. CNBC spokesman Paul Capelli said employees were told of the firings Thursday afternoon. The move follows NBC’s decision to fold CNBC.com into its cable network.
An NBC spokeswoman said the West Coast layoffs ranged from vice presidents to mid- and lower-level staffers-not including any divisional presidents-throughout the broadcast network’s programming, promotion, publicity, finance and business affairs departments. Although declining to divulge the names of the affected employees, the spokeswoman did say they were all extended severance packages, regardless of accepting voluntary or involuntary layoff packages. The laid-off employees were given the option of making their final day on the job last Thursday or Friday.
Microsoft appeal to be aired live
The U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has announced plans to allow broadcasters to air live arguments Feb. 26 and 27 in Microsoft Corp.’s appeal of the ruling in its antitrust case. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently allowed airing of arguments in the Napster case, and another appeals court has allowed the airing of another case, but the broadcast is a first for the D.C. appeals court, which hears a large number of controversial cases. ABCNews.com has indicated it will carry the arguments live on its Web site and will also distribute the audio to other broadcasters. The C-SPAN.org Web site will also carry the arguments live.
Gemstar files complaint over set-top boxes
Gemstar-TV Guide International filed a complaint last week with the International Trade Commission against four television set-top box manufacturers.
The complaint alleges that Pioneer, Scientific-Atlanta, EchoStar and SCI Systems Corp. have illegally imported set-top boxes containing interactive program guides that infringe on its patents. Gemstar is seeking an order from the ITC to block import of the infringing IPG boxes.
The move is the latest round in Gemstar’s legal wrangling over its IPG patent. The company has pending lawsuits against Pioneer, Scientific-Atlanta and EchoStar in federal district courts (SCI Systems Corp. supplies EchoStar’s infringing boxes).
Pioneer and EchoStar countersued Gemstar in separate lawsuits in December, alleging that the company illegally restrained trade for IPGs. Last October, Motorola settled a Gemstar IPG patent-infringement suit in a pact estimated by some reports to be valued as high as $200 million.
Telemundo replaces Univision at Buckeye
Toledo, Ohio-based Buckeye Cable System is replacing the ousted Spanish-language channel Univision with Telemundo, the cable operator announced last Thursday. Buckeye signed a five-year carriage deal with Telemundo. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Buckeye made news Feb. 1 when it abruptly dumped Univision from the 154,000-subscriber system, claiming the network’s rate hike request was too high. Buckeye officials said its Telemundo deal will not result in an increase in its subscriber fees.
Napster may have to `patrol’ system
Plaintiffs in the Napster litigation submitted a modified preliminary injunction Friday requiring Napster to “patrol” its own system as directed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs include A&M Records, Geffen Records, Interscope Records, Sony Music Entertainment, MCA Records, Atlantic Recording Corp., Island Records, Motown Record Co. and Capitol Records.
Meanwhile, Napster on Friday announced that a new technology that transfers files within a peer-to-peer structure will be implemented by Bertelsmann subsidiary Digital World Services. The solution, Napster said, would maintain the peer-to-peer structure of Napster but would enable restrictions to be placed on transferred files, such as limiting the ability to burn music files onto CDs.