Briefly Noted

Sep 10, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Pegasus duo defects from Fox to WB
Two Pegasus Communications-owned stations are leaving Fox to become primary WB affiliates. The WB said it is the first time Fox affiliates have defected to a younger network. WDBD-TV in Jackson, Miss., and WPXT-TV in Portland, Maine, will make the switch on Oct. 7. The two markets represent about 700,000 TV homes. Ann Gagne, general manager of WPXT, said her station is switching because of “the growth potential with The WB.” She said she’s still talking to Fox about perhaps clearing some of the Fox programming on WPME-TV, the UPN affiliate managed by WPXT in the 89th-largest market in the country.
WDBD General Manager Ted Rudolph said his station has been a Fox affiliate since 1993. The WB had been carried on a low-power station in the Jackson market, which ranks 80th in the country. Mr. Rudolph has no plans to be a secondary affiliate for Fox.
Pegasus owns or programs 11 stations that together reach some 2 percent of the country’s TV homes. After Oct. 7, Pegasus will have six WB affiliates and four Fox affiliates. WB Distribution Chief Ken Werner, who noted that Pegasus had built a station as a WB affiliate in Mobile, Ala., said, “We’re very excited to have two extremely strong stations join The WB lineup.”
He said the switches will give The WB coverage in 88 percent to 89 percent of the NTI universe. The WB, which has flipped 15 UPN stations since 1997, has contractual commitments from three more stations to do the same in the next year or two, Mr. Werner said.
A Fox spokesman said he is unaware of discussions for secondary carriage on WPME in Portland but said discussions have been held with broadcasters and cable operators in both markets. He expressed hope that “at the end of the day these situations are going to be better than they were before.”
Senate cancels leak hearing
A Senate hearing on legislation that makes it a crime for past or present government employees to make unauthorized leaks of classified government information was canceled last week after the Bush administration said it wouldn’t support the bill. The hearing on the measure, authored by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., would have been before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Television and print journalists, who strongly oppose the bill on First Amendment grounds, hailed the turn of events.
“I think this is a very healthy, productive development,” said Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association. The White House may instead establish an interagency working group to review whether new protections are needed for classified documents. Meanwhile, representatives from news organizations and the intelligence community plan to meet later this month to discuss their concerns.
Deutsche Telekom sells systems to Liberty
In an expected move, Deutsche Telekom AG last week said it will sell its six remaining regional cable TV companies to John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. for $5 billion in cash, stock and notes. But Liberty might not be through with its European cable-buying binge. Sources said Liberty is conducting talks with other so-called level-four cable operators in Germany and elsewhere about outright acquisitions or partnerships. Liberty declined comment. Liberty already is a majority investor in leading European cable TV group UPC through a stake in its parent, United GlobalCom. UPC plans to merge its German cable network with rival Primacom AG, although a shareholder vote on the deal has been postponed for eight weeks. Mr. Malone and other Liberty executives are expected to elaborate on their plans to build a U.S.-style cable industry in Europe at an annual investors meeting Friday in New York.
CBS tops at News Emmys
CBS claimed eight news Emmys last week, making it this year’s biggest single winner of the prized statues, which were handed out in New York by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. PBS programming earned seven Emmys. CNBC earned five Emmys, and big sister NBC earned four. ABC won three awards, and CNN, Discovery, MSNBC and syndicated programming won two each. Cinemax, HBO, HBO Signature and The Learning Channel won one apiece. A complete list of winners is posted at Emmyonline.org.
FCC nixes ALTV request
The Federal Communications Commission last week rejected a request by the Association of Local Television Stations that dish television companies be barred from offering local signals on an a la carte basis. ALTV wants direct broadcast satellite companies to offer local signals in each market only as a package so none are left out of the mix. But the FCC reaffirmed an earlier decision permitting a la carte offerings. “The FCC concluded that this flexible approach is consistent with the statute and promotes consumer choice in programming,” the agency said in a Sept. 5 statement. The FCC also reaffirmed other policies related to satellite programming, including the standard that dish TV companies use to determine whether a broadcaster’s picture quality is adequate.