FCC delays cross-ownership review
Sources expect the Federal Communications Commission to review the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban after a new set of commissioners is in place. The agency dropped plans to initiate a review at its May 10 public meeting because commissioners Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a Republican, and Gloria Tristani, a Democrat, would have voted against it.
Mr. Furchtgott-Roth wants the ban repealed because he thinks it’s outdated, but Ms. Tristani wants it retained to protect a diversity of voices. GOP Chairman Michael Powell and Commissioner Susan Ness, a Democrat, fall in the middle and would eliminate the ban when it can’t be justified. To avoid a 2-2 split, Mr. Powell postponed consideration. The restriction bars entities from owning both a newspaper and a television or a radio station in the same market, but the FCC has made exceptions. Broadcasters had been anticipating a relaxation of the rule ever since Mr. Powell told lawmakers a month ago he would review it in May.
Ferree named head of Cable Services Bureau
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell has chosen W. Kenneth Ferree, a communications attorney in Washington, to head the Cable Services Bureau. Mr. Ferree, a Georgetown University law professor specializing in telecommunications issues, begins at his new post May 21. He will replace Deborah Lathen, who announced last week she’s resigning as head of the bureau on May 18.
Groups urge court to uphold pair of caps
The National Association of Broadcasters and the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance asked the U.S. District Appeals Court last week to uphold the 35 percent national broadcast ownership cap and the cable-broadcast cross-ownership cap. The parties urged the court to reject a lawsuit by the Big 3 networks and AOL Time Warner that seeks to overturn the restrictions.They argued that the national ownership cap does not violate the First Amendment because the networks, through their owned-and-operated stations and affiliates, reach between 90 percent and 98 percent of U.S. households already.
Tabacoff taking buyout from ABC
David Tabacoff, a 24-year veteran of ABC News and most recently executive producer of “20/20 Downtown,” has been cleared to take the buyout offered to Walt Disney Co. employees in an attempt to trim some 4,000 jobs company-wide. Letters notifying those whose buyout requests have been approved started going out last week. In an e-mail to co-workers Friday, Mr. Tabacoff said he will pursue new broadcast opportunities.
Porn complicates VOD introduction in L.A.
AT&T Broadband is planning to introduce video on demand to digital cable subscribers in the Los Angeles area. But in preparing the new service, the multiple system operator must contend with the issue of whether to offer Vivid on Demand’s Hot Network-a pornographic content channel that airs programming considered more sexually explicit than the shows run by the tamer Playboy and Spice channels. A consortium of religious organizations that controls about 3 million shares of AT&T stock has been lobbying the MSO to distance itself from the adult network.
Such a challenge isn’t likely to impact the cable operator’s plans in Los Angeles, which houses the seat of the nation’s porn industry in its San Fernando Valley. But the cultural dispute may become a nuisance for AT&T as it rolls out its VOD services in other markets. ACTV Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President Richard Yelen, who helped develop Cox Communications’ pay-per-view strategy when he served as the cable operator’s director of cable TV marketing before joining ACTV, thinks that AT&T should stick to its adult programming guns.
“There are ways to have it and not flaunt [it],” Mr. Yelen said. “If you put it out there, you don’t have to do any heavy marketing … at the end of the day, AT&T has a business to run.”
Revenue flat at Big 3
First-quarter prime-time revenues for the Big 3 broadcast networks were flat at $2.9 billion, according to the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association. Combined prime-time revenues rose 2.6 percent to $1.4 billion, while combined news revenues fell nearly 10 percent to $207 million and children’s revenues plummeted more than 30 percent to $12 million from the previous year. Morning news saw the biggest gain of 6.5 percent to $159 million in revenues. Combined sports revenues rose a mere 1.9 percent to $742 million.
Study: Blacks, Hispanics watch more TV
A new breed of urban consumer is interacting with new high-tech TV choices to drive the media business into the future.That’s one conclusion
that participants heard at the May 10 State of the Broadband Urban Markets Forum held in New York and sponsored by Horowitz Associates. Other insights: Hispanics and African Americans watch more television than other population groups, and Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans are more likely to use pay-per-view in greater proportions than other population groups.