Breaking News Archives

May 22, 2001  •  Post A Comment

FCC looking into claims against networks

In a victory for affiliates, the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday officially launched proceedings seeking comment on the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance’s allegations that the major TV networks are abusing their affiliates in violation of agency rules. The Big 4 TV networks had been urging the FCC to ax NASA’s request for the proceedings. In a statement this afternoon, the FCC solicited public comment on the allegations. Those comments are due July 23.

Alan Frank, NASA chairman and president of Post-Newsweek Stations, said, “NASA is pleased that the FCC will be giving serious consideration to the important issues raised in the petition. We look forward to presenting our views and having the FCC confirm the meaning of the provisions of the Communications Act and the rules that are at stake here. We also look forward to a continuing constructive relationship with the networks.”

A network source said the proceeding is a political compromise of sorts that doesn’t go as far as the affiliates had hoped. And in the networks’ favor, the FCC stressed that its launch of the proceedings shouldn’t be interpreted as a decision on the underlying issues. “It’s a wash,” the network source said.

WHDH settles with Boston Herald: Sunbeam Television’s WHDH-TV, Boston, reached a confidential settlement Monday with the Boston Herald. The station had intended to file a libel suit against the paper this week.

At issue was an unflattering column about Sunbeam owner Ed Ansin that ran in the newspaper after WHDH fired main anchor Kim Carrigan last month. The May 1 column by Margery Eagan, who has a local radio show, said WHDH staffers described Mr. Ansin as a “despicable, ruthless, egomaniacal, power-mad narcissistic troll in need of psychoanalytic intervention.”

WHDH’s Web site last week posted the letter written by Mr. Ansin’s Boston attorney, addressed to Herald Publisher Patrick Purcell, saying the article constitutes “a pattern of libelous and defamatory statements by the Herald against Mr. Ansin.”

From his Miami headquarters, Mr. Ansin told ELECTRONIC MEDIA Tuesday: “We did settle. We’re satisfied with it. But it is a confidential settlement, and consequently we’re not going to file suit.”

Consumers’ Voice site altered: For the second time in less than a week, Consumers’ Voice, the self-described watchdog that is battling the Tauzin-Dingell broadband bill, has altered its Web site, www.consumersvoice.org, in response to attention from ELECTRONIC MEDIA.

On Monday, in the wake of an article in EM about the group’s close financial ties to AT&T, Consumers’ Voice began listing AT&T as a member on its site. Last Thursday, group founder Robert K. Johnson removed the entire membership roster from the site after EM informed him it had reached a few of the hundreds of individuals listed and they said they had never knowingly authorized use of their names. Most of the more than 200 members originally listed remain off the site pending an internal audit.The legislation is designed to make the Bell phone companies more competitive with cable in the high-speed Internet access business. AT&T is the staunchest opponent of the measure.

NBC wins 18 to 49 demo for May sweeps: Led by winning outings last Wednesday through Saturday (May 16-19) in the adults 18 to 49 demographic, NBC has maintained its lock in the key demo for the May sweeps (April 26-May 23) and the 2000-01 season. With this Wednesday night marking the end of the May sweeps, NBC’s 4.7 rating/14 share average in adults 18 to 49 holds 11 percent advantage over Fox’s second-ranked 4.2/12, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast national data.

However, NBC’s leading position appears to be an eroding one; its May sweeps average is down 10 percent from the year-ago sweeps (5.2/15) while Fox inched ahead 2 percent in adults 18 to 49 vs. last year (4.1/12).

CBS, too, ate away at NBC’s lead with its “Survivor: The Australian Outback” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” helping it score a 24 percent spike for a third-ranked 4.1/12 in adults 18 to 49. ABC, on the other hand, saw its aging “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”-led lineup continue to slide at a fourth-ranked 3.4/10 average — down 36 percent from its top-ranked 5.3/15 average in the year-ago sweeps.

In the overall season-to-date adults 18 to 49 race, Fox’s 4.5/12 average appears to be a good position to nose out ABC (4.4/12) and to finish only 7 percent behind NBC’s top-ranked 4.8/13 average. Again, NBC’s score is exhibiting 4 percent year-to-year erosion while Fox has moved up 7 percent and ABC has dropped 20 percent. CBS’s fourth-ranked 4.0/11 has also exhibited 8 percent year-to-year growth.

Fox and CBS, though, appear best positioned to tout nearly across-the-board demo growth. Fox’s teen demos (4.0/14) and adults 25 to 54 (4.5/11) are up 11 percent and 7 percent, respectively, year to year. Fox is also easily on track to win the season in adults 18 to 34 (4.6/14), but is flat on a seasonal basis. CBS is also up 9 percent in adults 25 to 54 (4.9/12), 11 percent in adults 18 to 34 (3.0/9) and 6 percent in teens (1.9/7).

CBS is also on track to win the season in households (8.6/14) and total average viewers (12.53 million), about even with its year-ago averages in two categories. ABC, despite its young demo falloff, will likely come in second in households (8.4/14) and total viewers (12.50 million) but is down 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in those two categories. Meanwhile, NBC will finish third in households (8.0/13) and total viewers (11.58 million), down 7 percent and 6 percent. Fox’s 6.1/10 in households and 9.59 million viewers are up 3 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Corvo, Rosenwasser tapped at ‘Dateline’: The expected appointment of David Corvo as executive producer of “Dateline NBC” Tuesday was accompanied by the news that Marc Rosenwasser has been promoted to executive editor of the newsmagazine franchise and executive producer of Tom Brokaw’s prime-time documentaries.

Mr. Corvo, who joined NBC News as a vice president in 1995, also will oversee the programming “Dateline” produces for sister channel MSNBC, Discovery Channel and other outlets. Mr. Corvo’s broadcast news career started at KNXT-TV (now KCBS-TV) in Los Angeles. He moved up the ranks to vice president of public affairs programming at CBS News before joining fledgling Fox News in 1992 as vice president and executive producer.

Mr. Rosenwasser, who worked for the Associated Press and spent seven years at ABC News, joined NBC News in 1990. He has been with “Dateline” since 1992 and has been senior broadcast producer for the last eight years. During his “Dateline” tenure, he has earned 13 Emmys and one DuPont award.

Intercepted cell call protected: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that a radio commentator was protected by the First Amendment when he aired the tape of a cellphone conversation about a labor dispute that had been intercepted without the consent of the speakers. Plaintiffs in the case had sought damages under federal and state wiretapping laws, alleging their conversation had been secretly intercepted by a third party.

“We think it clear that parallel reasoning requires the conclusion that a stranger’s illegal conduct does not suffice to remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern,” the court said in its decision.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications