Briefly Noted

Oct 15, 2001  •  Post A Comment

ABC signs video-swapping deal with Al Jazeera
ABC News on Thursday signed a nonexclusive deal to swap video and share resources with Al Jazeera television, the Qatar-based news organization that has suddenly become famous as the preferred outlet for Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban. CNN inked a deal the previous weekend that was supposed to guarantee it a six-hour embargo on material from Al Jazeera, which broadcasts from Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul and is the only news organization operating with the Taliban’s blessing. On Oct. 7, after the United States launched its attack against targets inside Afghanistan, all U.S. news organizations grabbed Al Jazeera’s feed-including the transmission of a chilling message from bin Laden-claiming fair use.
For two days, Al Jazeera threatened ABC, CBS, Fox News, NBC News and MSNBC with legal consequences for what it called “piracy” of its footage. Finally, CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson brokered a truce by telling his U.S. counterparts that CNN would agree to share video of compelling news events but not enterprise projects in which CNN was involved. And CNN said that Al Jazeera had only been rattling legal sabers out of loyalty to CNN.
ABC News’ deal, signed by executive Bob Murphy in Qatar, allows Al Jazeera access to ABC NewsOne video and vice versa. The two organizations may also share some equipment and uplinks. (ABC has one in northern Afghanistan, while Al Jazeera’s in Kabul is invaluable.) “We insisted that it be nonexclusive,” said a spokesman. CBS News, which has counted Al Jazeera among its NewsPath subscribers, in also in talks about a reciprocal agreement.
`Larry Sanders’ clears two ABC O&Os
Columbia TriStar Television has kicked off the off-cable sales of “The Larry Sanders Show,” clearing the former HBO comedy on ABC owned-and-operated KABC-TV in Los Angeles and WLS-TV in Chicago for the beginning of its fall 2002 weekend syndication window. The Garry Shandling-led “Sanders,” which was a cornerstone hit comedy for HBO from 1992-98, has already been sold for weekday stripping on cable’s Bravo channel, also starting in fall 2002.
Broadcast station sales of “Sanders” mark something of a watershed point for off-cable series, with other hit cable properties like HBO’s current series “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” expected to test the broadcast waters in the near future.
FCC to examine cable program access
The Federal Communications Commission last week launched proceedings that could give new life to regulations requiring cable system operators to sell their programming-the cable networks they own-to satellite TV operators and other competitors.
Without FCC intervention, the so-called program access rule would expire under a sunset provision on Oct. 7 next year. But the FCC last week said it wants to conduct a proceeding first to determine whether the rules continue to be necessary. Among other things, the FCC asked for public comment on the impact the rule has had on diversity of programming.
`America’s Most Wanted’ entering radio realm
Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted” distributor Twentieth Television has entered an arrangement with TotalMedia Communications giving TotalMedia exclusive rights to develop and distribute “AMW” programming to local radio stations in the United States and Canada.
“The national reach of radio, coupled with its immense local impact, will only enhance `AMW’s’ mission to help provide law enforcement with leads to bring criminals to justice and find missing persons,” Bob Cook, president and chief operating officer of Twentieth Television, said in a statement.
The “AMW Radio” programming will be produced on a daily basis, focusing on topical and breaking news stories. A Web element may also be included, linking radio station Web sites to the “AMW” national Web site.
Belo group cutting 160 jobs, freezing wages
On the heels of Belo’s completion of its $5 million purchase of KSKN-TV in Spokane, Wash., the group announced a cost-reduction strategy that includes the reduction of management committee salaries by 5 percent, the elimination of 160 jobs by the end of October and the freezing of wages companywide.
The salaries of the five members of the management committee are to stay at the reduced level at least until 2003, Belo Chairman, President and CEO Robert Decherd said Oct. 10 in his announcement of expense reductions due to lower expected revenue generation. The company, which claims a work force of 8,000, has cut its employee rolls by some 6 percent since last year. The additional cuts will mean an 8 percent total job reduction.
Mr. Decherd said that after cutting the 160 positions companywide, Belo plans to fill positions that open next year. Employees who have personal services contracts or labor agreements will be asked to volunteer to have their salaries frozen but will not face retaliatory action if they refuse. Discretionary expense and capital spending, which have been reduced, will remain at the current level through 2002. Belo’s cash dividend will not be increased until at least 2003.