Briefly Noted

Oct 8, 2001  •  Post A Comment

AT&T Broadband modifying Western Show plans
AT&T Broadband will cut back its presence at the Western Cable Show this November from an expected 45 to 50 executives from all around the country to just a handful from the California area. The cutback was confirmed by a California Cable Television Association spokesman, who attributed AT&T’s decision to post-Sept. 11 travel issues and to the fact that the big multiple system operator is now a target for acquisition. Nonetheless, every other one of the 12 MSOs that have committed to having a major meeting in conjunction with the Western Show is still on board, the spokesman said, adding that the number of exhibitors stands at 336 this year, compared with 473 last year, and that the attendee pre-registration is down only about 100 from last year’s number.
Nickelodeon disputes WGA election
The months-long dispute between the Writers Guild of America and Nickelodeon Animation Studios over the potential unionization of writers on six animated Nick series took another turn last week when the WGA announced it had won an election calling for guild representation of the animation writers by a vote of 19 to 2. A Nickelodeon statement called the WGA’s action “misleading” and “an attempt to circumvent the National Labor Relations Board.” The Nick statement put quotation marks around the term “election,” saying that it was ”neither valid nor binding and [was] in fact just another publicity stunt being staged by the WGA.” A WGA statement pointed to the fact that the “election [was] supervised” by a member of the California State Assembly and that an “independent company that provides election services to unions and state and local governments” had received and counted the secret ballots.
The election was held to “demonstrate to Nickelodeon that it is time to begin the dialogue for a contract for these writers,” said Victoria Riskin, president, WGA, west, in the guild’s statement. “Nickelodeon representatives continue to state that they must wait for an NLRB-conducted election before these writers can receive the benefit of union representation.” For its part, Nickelodeon declared that it would continue to “recognize and honor” the NLRB’s voting rules and procedures. The six affected Nick shows are “Invader Zim,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Constant Payne,” “Hey Arnold!” “Fairly Odd Parents” and “Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius.”
Cable ops can pass fees to subscribers
The Federal Communications Commission last Thursday affirmed the right of cable operators to pass along all franchising fees to their subscribers. In addition, the FCC made clear that cable operators are free to let their subscribers know whom to blame for the resulting increases in rates. That became an issue because several cities-Nashville; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Pasadena, Calif.-wanted to get a piece of their systems’ nonsubscriber revenues from ad sales and home-shopping commissions without letting the systems pass along those charges. The cities, according to the FCC, also wanted to bar operators from itemizing franchise fees separately on their subscriber bills. Said the FCC in ruling for the cable operators, “[The FCC] hopes that both cable operators and local governments will use this decision as an opportunity to negotiate reasonable franchise agreements and franchise fees that put consumers at the forefront of their discussions.”
Harrigan leaves CNN for Fox News Channel
A correspondent crossed network lines in northern Afghanistan last week when Fox News Channel hired longtime CNN correspondent Steve Harrigan. Mr. Harrigan, who recently collapsed from food poisoning during a videophone report from the region, helped CNN’s Moscow bureau earn multiple awards during his tenure. He filed his first Fox report from northern Afghanistan Sunday morning. A CNN spokesman said last week that Matthew Chance had been deployed from the network’s London bureau and was in position to report from rebel-controlled Afghanistan. The spokesman said CNN has a total of 70 personnel in the region, 12 of them in Afghanistan, including Pakistan-born Kamal Hayder in a Taliban-controlled area.
Charter signs interim replacements for Kent
Charter Communications has signed Chief Financial Officer Kent Kalkwarf and Chief Operating Officer Dave Barford to long-term employment agreements. The two men, who are also Charter executive VPs, will assume interim responsibility for the duties of Jerry Kent, who a week ago resigned unexpectedly from his post as president and CEO, sending the company’s stock into a tailspin. One purpose of the new agreements, which will run through the end of 2005, is to assure Wall Street that the ranks of Charter’s senior management will remain intact despite Mr. Kent’s departure. Also, as expected, the St. Louis-based multiple system operator has reached a definitive agreement to purchase the assets that High Speed Access Corp. uses to serve Charter’s high-speed-data customers. The purchase price for those assets is $81.1 million in cash. About 85 percent of HSA’s business comes from Charter. The expectation now is that within a few months HSA will cease doing business as an Internet service provider to other companies and will cease to be a separate entity. Under the Charter agreement, more than two-thirds of HSA’s personnel will have an opportunity for continued employment with Charter.