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Mar 12, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Powell: No more radio-deal delays

GOP FCC Chairman Michael Powell announced Monday that he had pulled the plug on an agency practice of putting holds on controversial radio station transactions that some industry critics felt would give a broadcaster too much clout.

In a statement, Mr. Powell said the practice-which was put in place by Clinton administration Democrats-put on an agency back burner deals that would give a broadcaster control over more than 50 percent of a market’s advertising. In some cases, Mr. Powell said the policy had delayed transactions by more than two years.

“While I am sensitive to the issues raised by the concentration levels in some of these cases, I do not believe the public interest is served by inaction, ” Mr. Powell said. FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani, one of the Clinton administration’s Democratic appointments, said eliminating the review policy “set the public interest adrift on uncharted seas.”

In the wake of the change, 32 deals were approved Monday, eliminating of 75 percent of the agency’s application backlog.

Free airtime may not fly: Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain’s latest proposal on free airtime for politicians is already facing heavy artillery on Capitol Hill.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, told ELECTRONIC MEDIA Monday that he opposes the idea and will seek to block any similar bill that emerges on the House side.

“I’m going to try to kill it,” he said following a speech at the National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference in Washington, noting that he’s not sure where the rest of the House Republican leadership stands. “Why not make the sign makers give us free signs, too?” he added rhetorically.

Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., is drafting legislation that requires broadcasters to pay spectrum fees to underwrite candidates’ television ads.

Friedman moves up from ‘Today’: NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker isn’t the only “Today” show whiz kid moving up in the West Coast world of the Peacock Network.

Effective Thursday, “Today” producer David Friedman will take up the duties of developing and producing nonscripted reality programming for NBC Studios President Ted Harbert.

Mr. Friedman, 31, is a second-generation TV newsman. His father Paul is the No. 2 executive at ABC News.

XFL ratings rise on NBC: The good XFL news is that the Nielsen overnights from NBC’s Saturday game were up 4 percent from the previous week to a 2.8 rating/5 share in the 49 metered markets. The bad XFL news is that the overnights from UPN’s Sunday game continued to drop. They were off 17 percent from the previous week to a lowest-yet 1.5/2.

Witnesses named for digital hearing: Witnesses representing a broad cross-section of the television industry will testify at Thursday’s hearing before the House telecommunications and Internet subcommittee on broadcasters’ transition to digital.

The scheduled witnesses are CBS Executive Vice President Martin Franks; David Arland, director of government and public relations for the Consumer Electronics Association; Lowell “Bud” Paxson, chairman and founder of Paxson Communications; Steve Weed, president of Millennium Digital Media, on behalf of the American Cable Association; Beth Courtney, president and CEO of Louisiana Public Broadcasting; Ben Tucker, executive vice president, broadcast operations, Fisher Broadcasting, on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters; Michael Wilner, president of Insight Communications, on behalf of the National Cable Television Association; Ron Parrish, vice president of industry and government affairs for Radio Shack; and Chris Cookson, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Warner Bros.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., heads the committee.

‘Doc’ a smooth operator: Pax TV’s Sunday original movie presentation of “Doc,” starring country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, turned in a 2.5 rating/4 share average in households in Pax’s 39 metered markets, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Airing at 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET), “Doc” built throughout the night, peaking at a 2.6 rating in its second hour. This marks the highest-rated Sunday performance for Pax since the network’s August 1998 debut. The film’s overall 2.5 rating represents a 14 percent increase over the previous metered market high of a 2.2 rating in metered households delivered by “Once Upon a Christmas” (starring Kathy Ireland and John Dye) in December. Additionally, the new Pax movie improved the first quarter 2001 “Big Event Sunday” movie time period average by 150 percent.

Top metered TV station performers with “Doc” included KPXN-TV in Los Angeles (2.3/3), WPXW-TV in Washington (3.9/6), WXPX-TV in Tampa, Fla., (4.8/7), WVPX in Cleveland (3.7/5), KPPX-TV in Phoenix (3.7/5) and KSPX in Sacramento, Calif. (4.0/6). Also, both Washington and WHPX in Hartford, Conn., (3.3/5) attained the highest program delivery for those stations since Pax’s launch.

Thirty-five of the 39 Pax metered markets outperformed The WB and/or UPN in the time period. “Doc” will continue as a weekly series beginning 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, March 18.#

Pauley absent from ‘Dateline’: “Dateline NBC” will be operating largely without the presence of Stone Phillips’ co-anchor, Jane Pauley, until May. A spokeswoman said Ms. Pauley is on a planned vacation that began after her Feb. 23 appearance on the newsmagazine.

Among the items on her agenda is weighing the possibility of writing a book-potential subject, genre, publisher and/or collaborator unknown. Ms. Pauley will continue to be seen in “Dateline’s” Timeline segments.

Gaudelli in for Ohlmeyer on ‘MNF’: ABC Sports has named Fred Gaudelli, the longtime producer of sister channel ESPN’s Sunday night NFL broadcasts, as the producer of “Monday Night Football.”

Don Ohlmeyer notified the network last week that he would not be returning for a second season on “MNF” because he no longer wanted to put in the travel the job required. “Clearly the direction Don established is the direction we are headed in,” said Mr. Gaudelli in a conference call announcing his move.

Fox: O’Reilly not close to signing new contract: Fox News is denying a report by Internet gossip Matt Drudge that “The O’Reilly Factor” host and best-selling author Bill O’Reilly is “on the verge of signing” a new contract worth $20 million over several years.

While acknowledging optimism that an agreement will be reached with the man who has become its signature personality, a Fox News spokesman said Monday, “We’re still in negotiation.”

As late as last week, a source familiar with the talks described the discussions as still dealing with “parameters” and “hypotheticals” and said no formal offer had been made to Mr. O’Reilly, who also may get a late-night broadcast show out of the new contract.

By far Fox News Channel’s most popular personality, Mr. O’Reilly frequently attracts more viewers to Fox News Channel on weeknights than Larry King does to CNN in spite of CNN’s wider distribution.

Cable shows combining: Call it the marriage of the Eastern regional cable shows. Organizers of East Coast Cable and the Eastern Show will announce Tuesday that they’re combining their cable shows starting this year. Both shows have suffered declines in attendance the past two years.

Encore for ‘Band’: ABC is bringing back its “Making the Band” reality series with an hour-long premiere at 8 p.m. (ET) Friday, April 13. The series, which premiered in its first season on ABC on March 4, 2000, will continue its second season in the regular 8:30 p.m.-to- 9 p.m. Friday time slot beginning April 20.

For the special hour-long bow April 13, the first half-hour will be a recap episode of “Making the Band’s” inaugural season, including the band, O-Town, inking a record deal with music impresario Clive Davis and his new label, J Records. The second half-hour will be the premiere episode, with O-Town being invited to perform live in front of millions of television viewers at the Miss America pageant. Meanwhile, a band member’s life is turned upside down when his estranged father tries to come back into his life after 20 years.

In its first
season, “Making the Band” ranked first in its Friday time period among women 18 to 34, teens 12 to 17, kids 2 to 11, female teens 12 to 17, tweens 9-11, females 12 to 24 and women 18 to 24.

Upton opposes analog spectrum fee: Broadcasters have a strong friend in Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House telecommunications and Internet subcommittee.

Among his priorities this year is torpedoing a Bush administration proposal to impose an analog spectrum fee on television broadcasters to spur their transition to digital.

“We’re going to be throwing the flag on that one,” he said, using a football term. He also opposes free airtime for politicians and will fight any efforts to weaken a new law that curbs the licensing of low-power FM radio stations.

In addition, he wants to remove newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership restrictions. The lawmaker outlined his legislative agenda today during a luncheon address to the National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference, triggering a standing ovation.

Home & Garden increases program spending: Scripps Networks’ Home & Garden Television is boosting its programming spending for next season by 25 percent to roughly $85 million, network officials disclosed Monday. HGTV, which will air 1,500 hours of new programming for the season, will launch 13 new series in prime time and daytime. The network will also run 38 fresh specials. New original HGTV series to launch this season include “The Look With Katie Brown,” a design series; and “A Place to Call Home,” a location series that visits American cities across the country. Launched in 1994, HGTV reaches 69.3 million homes.

Fox wins Sunday; ‘Gunmen’ drops: Fox, in typical fashion, won the first two hours of its 7 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Sunday prime-time rotation among adults 18 to 49, but saw the second episode of its new “X-Files” spinoff, “The Lone Gunmen,” drop significantly week to week. Airing temporarily in “The X-Files'” 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time slot, “The Lone Gunmen’s” 4.3 rating/10 share in adults 18 to 49 marked a 34 percent drop from its premiere (6.5/15), according to comparable Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data.

In addition to finishing second in adults 18 to 49 to ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (4.8/11) for the hour, “Lone Gunmen” dropped 40 percent from its blockbuster lead-in sitcoms “The Simpsons” (7.5/19) and “Malcolm in the Middle” (6.9/16) at a 7.2/17 for the 8 p.m. hour. “Lone Gunmen’s” 4.5/11 in adults 18 to 34 also marked 34 percent week-to-week slippage from a 6.5/14 for its premiere.

“Lone Gunmen” garnered 8.9 million total viewers, but its 5.4/6 in households slid 29 percent from a 7.6/11 on March 4. Fox still won the evening in adults 18 to 49 (5.3/13) and adults 18 to 34 (5.8/16), but was down 18 percent and 29 percent week-to-week in those two respective categories.

Kids, teens prefer cable: Kids and teens watch cable TV programming more than they watch the Big 4 broadcast networks, according to the Cabletelevision Bureau’s analysis of Nielsen data.

Ad-supported cable networks as a group averaged an 11 rating and 38 share of teen viewers age 12-17 for the first 21 weeks of the 2000-2001 season. The Big 4 recorded a 10.4 rating and 35.9 share.#

BRIEFLY NOTED

Turner South is shifting the scheduled times of two original series, moving “Live From the Bluebird” to 8 p.m. (ET) Fridays and “Liars & Legends” to 8 p.m. Tuesdays starting in April. … Cable networks A&E and Nickelodeon reached the 80 million subscriber mark this month.#