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The Insider

Mar 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Van Susteren deliberates on CNN offer
Though Greta Van Susteren’s contract with CNN expires in less than two weeks, the lawyer-turned-pundit has been in no hurry to re-sign. For one thing, it’s a tough cost environment in which to break into the seven-figure salary club. For another thing, says a source in tune with Ms. Van Susteren’s thought processes, after two months of doing “Burden of Proof” and “The Point” every weekday, she likes being able to feel she’s not bound to any assignments. Sources say there’s never been a better time in Ms. Van Susteren’s 10-year CNN career to test the value of her TV stock, which has never been higher-witness CBS News’ Mike Wallace seeking her expert opinion, on camera on “60 Minutes,” for the March 11 piece on a tough-as-nails New York judge, and the 22 percent year-to-year ratings improvement “The Point” has made. Still, those aware of recent exchanges beyond the CNN environment say Ms. Van Susteren is inclined to remain loyal to CNN, and they suspect she’ll consider questions of workload and supervisory stability as heavily as money.
Donaldson wigging out about Web-site losses
The first network newscast on the Web is hemorrhaging money, veteran ABC News journalist Sam Donaldson acknowledged. “My friends, we are hanging by our fingernails,” he told broadcasters last week at a seminar sponsored by the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. “If the accountants ever come down and take a true look at the books, I’m outta here,” he said half-jokingly, adding, “I think it’s a reasonable business decision to shut us down.” Nevertheless, he says the top brass at parent company The Walt Disney Co. have given him the green light to proceed for now with the daily video-streamed show, SamDonaldson@ABCNews.com. He attributes the show’s failure to its being tough to find on the larger ABCNews.com site. “Once you find me, it is unwatchable,” he said referring to the herky-jerky quality of the video. He told the Insider the show woos only a paltry number of advertisers. “I don’t know what the answer is to try to make money,” he said. “Do we sell things? I’m not a pitchman, obviously.”
NAB struggles to keep CBS, ABC on board
With tensions escalating between the networks and their affiliates, the key question at the National Association of Broadcasters appears to be shifting from whether NBC and Fox Broadcasting Co. can ever be persuaded to rejoin to whether there’s any possibility of keeping CBS and ABC on board. CBS and ABC’s loyalties to the organization could be tested soon, when the affiliates ask the NAB to lobby in support of their recent petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to investigate alleged network abuses. “We would like to sit down and discuss it with NAB after they have a chance to review it,” confirmed Gerry Waldron, an attorney for the affiliates. NBC and Fox bailed out of NAB after the affiliates forced the association to lobby against a network effort to ax the caps on TV station ownership.
Former FCC commissioner to take a bride
Former FCC Commissioner Jim Quello announced his engagement last week. His bride-to-be: Stephanie Lowell, a secretary to Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve. At deadline, a date for the wedding had not been set, but the couple were said to have decided on a small church service in the Washington suburbs.
Top investigative topic: unplugging from AOL
It wasn’t hard to find story ideas when Fox-owned KTTV, Los Angeles, started its “Fox 11 Wants to Know” segment two months ago. The investigative hotline received many calls on one topic-viewers who couldn’t cancel their AOL subscription. On March 5, KTTV did a story about people who thought they had canceled the Internet service but instead kept getting charged for it. AOL wouldn’t comment on the story. But after it aired, KTTV got even more calls from viewers, and in a follow-up piece by KTTV, AOL gave out a toll-free number solely for customers who want to cancel the service. “It was a nice way to help people,” KTTV News Director Jose Rios said.
`WOW’ grapples with stations over compensation
One wrestling company is now tussling with local stations. WOW Entertainment says its weekly syndicated television series, “WOW-Women of Wrestling,” will no longer pay to get on the air. The company is pulling out of stations requiring payment of promotional or other compensation in exchange for airing its show. “We believe that the show has established strong ratings in its markets and does not need to continue paying for airtime, especially in view of the recent existence of and continued forecast for a weak advertising market,” said Jeffrey Lewis, CEO.“