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Nov 8, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Media execs to meet White House halfway on war effort

Television and film industry executives are attempting a complicated balancing act: help the government get its message out about the war effort without compromising the free expression of the creative community.

Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America and a longtime champion of First Amendment rights, thinks both goals can be accomplished. “What’s wrong with making a picture about the heroism of a fireman or a police officer or FBI agent or a soldier or a sailor? What’s wrong with that if the story is compellingly told?” he said Thursday afternoon in an interview with CNN. “That’s the kind of pictures we make. I see nothing wrong with that. I don’t call that propaganda.” He said the power of movies and movie stars “can be very helpful in trying to persuade [people] that we are not their enemy.”

Mr. Valenti will be one of several media moguls who will meet Sunday in Beverly Hills with senior White House adviser Karl Rove to discuss ways the entertainment industry can aid in the war effort. One idea on the table is to create video clips featuring Tinseltown stars that might be shown overseas to spread the government’s message to Arab and Muslim world.

FCC OKs stations cutting back DTV ops to prime time only: In a victory for broadcasters, the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday announced a change in rules permitting stations to slash digital TV power and hours of operation.

Under the FCC’s original regulations, broadcasters were supposed to air DTV signals whenever their analog channels were in operation. They were also supposed to be broadcasting with enough DTV power to cover their analog service areas by the end of 2004. But the National Association of Broadcasters argued that the regulations were a waste of electricity because so few households are equipped to receive DTV.

Under the rule changes, the FCC authorized broadcasters to cut DTV operations back to prime time only, at least until April 2003. The FCC also said that for the foreseeable future, broadcasters would only have to use enough DTV power to cover their communities of license.

FCC officials also said broadcasters might be allowed to operate at the reduced power levels until the DTV transition is complete, defined as when 85 percent of TV households are able to receive the DTV signals of broadcasters in a market.

On a related note, the FCC said it would be open to granting waivers to commercial broadcasters who plead that financial hardships have prevented them from meeting a longtime agency deadline to launch DTV operations by May 1 next year.

Under the FCC’s original DTV game plan, the 2002 deadline was set to expedite the DTV transition-and broadcasters who couldn’t meet the cut were supposed to return their digital TV channels to the government.

But now the FCC is expecting so many broadcasters to miss the target date that the agency said it is designing a special new “short form” for waiver applications.

The FCC also announced that it was putting on indefinite hold a deadline that was supposed to require stations authorized to beef up their DTV operations to operate at full power by May 1. Also put on hold was a requirement that broadcasters decide whether they want to use their existing analog channels for DTV operations by the end of 2003.

These FCC deadlines were also originally adopted to encourage DTV’s rollout. But in an unusual twist, FCC officials said Thursday they now believe that postponing the deadlines might better serve the interests of the DTV transition by reducing initial DTV operational costs for broadcasters.

“It should speed a transition to a digital world,” said FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy.

In a press release, the FCC also said the changes would allow broadcasters to “elect a more graduated approach” to DTV. “Broadcasters would be permitted initially to build lower-powered and therefore less expensive DTV facilities and retain the right to expand their coverage area as the digital transition continues to progress,” the FCC said.

News choppers’ behavior during Texas truck chase under review: The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether three news choppers on Wednesday violated agency rules by following a police chase involving a burning truck. One of the choppers was with KDFW-TV, a Fox affiliate in Dallas. FAA officials had no comment on the station affiliations of the other two. The pilots face possible penalties, either monetary fines or flight restrictions, if found in violation of FAA rules. The agency has banned this sort of news gathering in major markets for security reasons in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Whatever the regulatory merits or demerits of the chopper coverage, cable news audiences seemed to eat it up. During the time that both Fox News Channel and CNN were carrying the coverage from KDFW-TV in Dallas, the two all-news channels averaged a combined 3.6 million viewers. That breaks out as 1.9 million viewers for CNN over the 40 minutes CNN carried it, 1.7 million over the 78 minutes Fox carried it, and 291,000 viewers for MSNBC during the comparable quarter hours — MSNBC didn’t cover it.

‘Good Day Live’ a go for Twentieth: Rising interest in newsmagazines, a cost-effective, ready-made set and the success of “Texas Justice’s ” slow rollout has prompted Twentieth Television to officially unveil its latest project, “Good Day Live,” based on the top-rated “Good Day L.A.” morning show from KTTV.

The one-hour news and entertainment strip featuring the same morning team as “Good Day L.A.” — Steve Edwards, Dorothy Lucey and Jillian Barberie — with a variety of correspondents from around the country in another test drive for the syndicator. The series will debut on Dec. 3 on five Fox O&Os: KTTV, WAGA in Atlanta, KSAZ in Phoenix, KTVI in St. Louis and KTBC in Austin, Texas. The series will debut in a number of different dayparts while it tests the syndication waters, including 10 a.m. on KTTV.

The series will be executive produced by Lisa Kridos and Josh Kaplan, who will continue to produce “Good Day L.A.”

O’Brien named Meredith Broadcasting president: Longtime Cox Broadcasting executive Kevin P. O’Brien has been named president of Meredith Broadcasting Group, whose 12 television stations reach some 10 percent of the U.S. TV universe. He fills the gap left when Cary Jones resigned in July. Mr. O’Brien will start his new job Monday and will operate out of Meredith-owned Fox affiliate KVVU-TV, Las Vegas, rather than Des Moines, Iowa, where Meredith is headquartered.

Mr. O’Brien, 58, whom many peers have described as a model station executive, has been executive vice president of Cox Television’s Independent Group, supervising five Cox stations throughout the country, in addition to serving as vice president and general manager of Cox Broadcasting’s Fox affiliate KTVU-TV in San Francisco.

“I felt that running a large group like that would be the logical next step in my career,” said Mr. O’Brien, who said he sees “a awful lot of upside” in the group, which has stations in six of the top 30 markets.

CBS, NBC neck-and-neck in Wednesday ratings: Country crooners, seashore sexual shenanigans and White House intrigue dominated Wednesday prime time ratings on the sixth night of the November sweeps. CBS’s “Country Music Awards” placed the Eye Network in a very close ratings battle with NBC’s “Law & Order”/”The West Wing”-fueled lineup for adults 18 to 49 and households, while Fox’s return of “Temptation Island II” (and an hour-long wedding reunion) took hold of the adults 18 to 34 demos.

“The 35th Annual CMA Awards,” airing from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET), boosted CBS to a win in total viewers (17.7 million) on the night-marking a 113 percent jump week to week. Preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast national data, which often fluctuates greatly from final national ratings for live events, had the CMA show coming in a very narrow second to NBC in households (11.0/17 vs. 11.1/17) and adults 18 to 49 (5.9/15 vs. 6.1/16) for the night. Most notably, “CMA” improved CBS’s adults 18 to
49 performance by 103 percent week to week and its household score by 88 percent.

NBC moved up 11 percent week to week in adults 18 to 49, 9 percent in households and 11 percent in total viewers (16.4 million). NBC’s dramas-“Ed” (4.2/11), “West Wing” (7.1/17) and “Law & Order” (7.0/19)-registered 17 percent, 13 percent and 8 percent week to week ratings increases in adults 18 to 49. “West Wing,” aside from setting an evening-high in adults 18 to 49, also set the bar Wednesday night in households (13.0/20) and total viewers (19.5 million).

Looking to set a warm and fuzzy tone, Fox’s 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. opening of the “Temptation Island Reunion Wedding” won the frame in Fox’s core adults 18 to 34 demo (4.9/14) and totaled 7.3 million viewers. Following at 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., the special preview opener of “Temptation Island II” posted 16 percent growth from its lead-in, scoring a top-ranked 5.7/16 in adults 18 to 34.

“T2,” which airs again this week in its regular 9 p.m. Thursday time slot, also helped Fox score 50 percent improvement in adults 18 to 34 and 133 percent improvement in women 18 to 34 (7.0/17) over its previous season-to-date averages (Sept. 24-Oct. 31) in the time period. Possibly indicative of a declining appetite for all reality series, “Temptation Island 2’s” 4.6/11 average in adults 18 to 49 marked a 44 percent decline from the 8.3/19 score for the original series debut of “Temptation Island” on Jan. 10, 2001.

Meanwhile, ABC opened the evening with “My Wife & Kids” (4.1/12) and “According to Jim” (4.0/10) each improving 3 percent week to week in the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. time slots among adults 18 to 49. In the 9 p.m. hour, “The Drew Carey Show” (4.1/10) held its lead-in (although dropping 16 percent week to week) while “Whose Line Is it Anyway?” (3.2/8) dropped 11 percent from what the from what the canceled “Bob Patterson” (3.6/9) averaged the previous week in adults 18 to 49. With newsmagazine “20/20” (3.4/9) down 5 percent week to week, ABC’s fourth-ranked 3.7/10 in adults 18 to 49 for the evening marked a 5 percent decline from the previous week.

TV Bureau of Advertising revises forecasts: The Television Bureau of Advertising issued a revised local and national spot forecast for both the current year and for 2002. The original forecast below was made just prior to the Sept. 11 attacks. The revised forecasts, which were released with the caution that “continued uncertainty” could mean further revisions, reflects the present landscape.

Original forecastRevised forecast

2001 local spot-3% to -5% -8% to -10%

National spot -16% to -18% -22% to -24%

Total spot-9% to -11%-15% to -17%

2002 local spot+4% to +6%+2% to +5%

National spot+6% to +8%+3% to +6%

Total spot+5% to +7%+2.5% to +5.5%

2003 local spot+3% to +5%Remains the same

National spot+2% to +4%Remains the same

Total spot+2.5% to +4.5%Remains the same

‘Enterprise’ delivers ratings coup for UPN: “Enterprise,” UPN’s “Star Trek” prequel, is continuing to hit warp drive in the Wednesday ratings. The Scott Bakula-led drama drew a 6.5 rating/10 share household average in Nielsen Media Research’s metered markets Wednesday night, improving its 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) time slot by 100 percent from year-ago share levels (5 share). “Enterprise” also improved its household share by 25 percent from the previous week (8 share).

The UPN sci-fi franchise also bested The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” (3.7/6) by a commanding 76 percent margin during the 9 p.m. hour. Though “Dawson’s” was up 14 percent week to week in households, it was still down 14 percent from year-ago time period levels (6 share).

In the 9 p.m. hour, UPN’s “Special Unit 2” (3.7/5) drama dropped 43 percent of “Enterprise” lead-in rating, but it beat The WB’s “Felicity” (3.3/5) by a 12 percent margin in ratings. “Special Unit 2” also improved 25 percent share from it week-ago 4 share average, but it is still down 29 percent from the time slot’s year-ago 7 share average. “Felicity” is also flat vs. year-ago and week-ago share levels.

UPN finished the night at 5.1//7 average in households, posting identical 17 percent increases over week-ago and year-ago share levels. The WB’s 3.5/5 is flat vs. last week and down 17 percent from its year-ago 6 share average.

Taylor Nelson Sofres to acquire TES, RapidChek: Taylor Nelson Sofres, the parent company of advertising-and-marketing information provider CMR, has reached agreement to acquire Theatrical Entertainment Services and its sister company, RapidChek Reporting.

\The two TES companies are based in Los Angeles and provide box-office verification and cinema tracking services to the film industry and movie theater operators. The deal announced on Nov. 8 includes an initial cash payment of $36.8 million, but the final cost of the acquisition could be as much as double that amount, according to a CMR spokesman, who said that the deal’s final terms would be determined over the “next couple of weeks.”

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications