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Jul 2, 2001  •  Post A Comment

It’s Hollings vs. House on FCC budget request:

A Senate appropriations subcommittee supports the Federal Communications Commission’s $248.5 million fiscal year 2002 funding request, panel Chairman Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., said last week. “I think the committee wants to make sure you have the entire amount requested,” he said.

By contrast, House appropriators want to scale back the request by almost $10 million. Testifying before the panel Monday morning, FCC Chairman Michael Powell reiterated his concern that agency engineers are retiring at a faster rate than they can be replaced, partly because the agency cannot match the higher salaries offered in the private sector. He said the situation is at a “crisis stage.” But he noted that his funding request, an 8 percent increase over fiscal year 2001 appropriations, would help the agency tackle the problem by hiring and training more engineers.

Mr. Powell said the FCC will need increased funding during the next several years to keep pace with its technology and personnel goals.

Meanwhile, responding to concerns raised by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., Mr. Powell said retailers and manufacturers have taken longer than expected to make cable set-top boxes available in stores because they disagree as to whether retailers should have a stake in the revenue. Customers currently pay monthly fees to their cable providers to rent the boxes.

Further political ad discounts opposed in House: House lawmakers opposed to provisions in campaign finance reform legislation that lower the already-discounted rates federal candidates pay to run television ads are vowing to strip the language from the bill when it reaches the floor in July. “We are going to do everything we can to kill that provision,” said Ken Johnson, spokesman for Rep. Billy Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Either Rep. Tauzin, R-La., or another opponent will offer an amendment to remove the language. The House Administration Committee, which oversees campaign contributions, approved two election reform measures late last week and one-the Shays-Meehan bill-includes the ad rate provisions. Nevertheless, the panel recommended against House passage of Shays-Meehan, a counterpart to the McCain-Feingold campaign reform bill that’s already passed the Senate. McCain-Feingold includes language added by Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., reducing the lowest-unit rates that broadcast, cable and satellite TV charge federal candidates prior to elections. The House committee also approved a scaled-back reform bill authored by panel Chairman Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, that does not include the Torricelli approach. Both bills are expected to reach the House floor after July 10, when congressmen return from their Independence Day recess. Also last week, Rep. Tauzin, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, urged House colleagues to reject the ad rate provisions, insisting they would spawn even more political ads, many of them negative.

Tribune Television modifies organizational tree: Tribune Television, looking for efficiencies and groupwide teamwork, has created positions for regional program directors and group-level news and sales management positions.

While the Tribune-owned stations in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago will continue to have their own dedicated program directors, those roles at the other 19 Tribune stations will be divvied up among three group program directors who will report to Marc Schacher, vice president, programming and development. The trio consists of Kath Quinn, based at WATL-TV in Atlanta; Natalie Grant, formerly of WBZL-TV in Miami and now based in Seattle; and Wendy Logsdon, who has been at KDAF-TV and will be based in Dallas.

Steve Ramsey, who has been station manager at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, has been named vice president, news operations, for Tribune. Still to be filled is the new position of vice president of sales operations.

“This realignment of resources is designed to reduce administrative costs using new technology and to increase groupwide cooperation in the development of news content and group sales,” said Tribune Television President Patrick J. Mullen.

WLWT-TV anchor Fuller to run for Cincinnati mayor: After more than a dozen years on the air, veteran Cincinnati anchor Courtis Fuller anchored his final newscast last week on NBC affiliate WLWT-TV. Mr. Fuller is leaving the station to become a mayoral candidate. He will be running against former WLWT anchor and current mayor Charlie Luken. “He felt like the city, in light of everything that has happened in the last year, needed new leadership. It was actually pretty spur-of-the-moment,” WLWT News Director Ken Jobe said of Mr. Fuller’s candidacy. “He had been kicking it around for a long time, but he didn’t make his decision until before the deadline.”

Mr. Fuller’s replacement has yet to be named. Incidentally, Jerry Springer, who was mayor of Cincinnati, later became a WLWT anchor.

Zappala promoted at Viacom: Tom Zappala has been promoted to senior vice president for programming of the Viacom Television Stations Group. Mr. Zappala will be responsible for programming and scheduling of non-network time slots for the 16 CBS and 19 UPN stations that make up the group.

He had been program and promotions director at KTXH-TV in Houston before being named Paramount (now UPN) Stations Group executive director of programming in January 1994. He was named vice president of programming for the Paramount group in April 1996.

“Tom and I have worked together for almost 10 years, and the experience and knowledge he brings to the group are invaluable,” group Executive Vice President Ray Rajewski said in announcing the expansion of Mr. Zappala’s duties.

AOL Time Warner backs women- and minority-owned businesses: AOL Time Warner has formed a fund that will invest about $100 million over three years in companies owned by women and minorities. The AOL Time Warner Opportunity Investment Fund will be looking to invest from $2 million to $10 million in individual businesses that have significant diversity in their senior management and that target underserved markets, as well as those that have a “strategic fit” with other AOL TW businesses. The fund will be managed by Rachel Lam, formerly a principal at Quetzal/Chase Capital Partners.

Gullane buys Guinness World Records franchise: Gullane Entertainment, the family entertainment studio whose properties include Nickelodeon’s former “Thomas the Tank Engine” kids series, has acquired the Guinness World Records (GWR) in a $65 million deal. Guinness is a widely recognized international brand that includes the best-selling annual “Guinness World Records” book. Gullane, a public company based in the United Kingdom, intends to additionally mine global television sales, licensing and merchandising, live events and new media content revenue.

GWR has been in existence since the mid-1950s and has developed the annual world record book into a well-recognized intellectual property reaching more than 70 million consumers annually in 82 countries and 24 languages. The television programs are broadcast worldwide, including those aired domestically on Fox in the past, currently reaching 23.3 million prime-time viewers in Japan.

Headquartered in London and maintaining an office in New York, GWR employs about 50 people. In the year ending June 30, 2000, GWR generated total sales of $33 million and had net assets of $5 million.

Trading on the London Stock Exchange, Gullane Entertainment operates from offices throughout the UK, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Tokyo. The company has equity interests in The Media Merchants, Sooty Productions and Catalyst Entertainment.

‘Battlestar Galactica’ to take flight again: Fox has ordered a two-hour backdoor pilot for launch of a new version of the sci-fi adventure “Battlestar Galactica” (ABC, 1978-80) from Studios USA Television. The pilot is up for series consideration for the 2002-03 television season and will have a shared cable window on USA Networks’ Sci Fi Channel.

In a deal announced by Sarah Timberman, th
e recently installed president of Studios USA Programming, A-list feature filmmaker Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects,” “Apt Pupil”) will executive-produce and direct the pilot. “X-Men” executive producer Tom DeSanto, Dan Angel and Billy Brown (“Night Visions”) will also serve as executive producers. Mr. Singer’s directing credits include the upcoming “X-Men 2” for 20th Century Fox as well as co-writing the original “X-Men.” Mr. Singer, Mr. DeSanto, Mr. Angel and Mr. Brown are represented by The William Morris Agency.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications