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Dec 25, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, Dec. 25, at 10:56 a.m. (PT); last updated Wednesday, Dec. 26, at 1:20 p.m.

Court TV aims to televise terrorism trial

Court TV has petitioned for the right to televise the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged “20th hijacker,” who is the first person to be indicted in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Moussaoui is charged with six counts of terrorism-related felonies, four of which carry the death penalty, and his trial is expected to begin as early as March in federal court in Alexandria, Va. Currently, there is a general ban on cameras in federal trials.

The Court TV petition to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia follows the passage of a U.S. Senate bill, introduced by Sen. George Allen, R-Va., that would require the court to make the trial proceedings available on closed-circuit television so that relatives of victims of the terrorist attacks can watch.

Court TV’s petition takes note of the general ban on cameras in federal courtrooms, which it contends is unconstitutional. Court TV also argues that its single stationary camera, which uses only available light, is unobtrusive. Those arguments aside, the thrust of the Court TV petition is “as Sen. Allen himself pointed out, in New York City alone, literally millions of citizens probably can properly claim to be victims or survivors of victims of the attacks.”

A hearing on Court TV’s petition is scheduled for Jan. 11. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Allen legislation in January.

CBS on top for Christmas: CBS won the annual Christmas race, according to metered-market results for the typically slow night. The network ran repeats of its regular lineup, trimming its tree with an average 5.8 rating/10 share for the night. ABC took the silver at a 4.8/9, while NBC and Fox tied with a 4.1/8. The WB finished fifth with a 2.8/5, with UPN following at a 1.4/3.

The CBS drama “JAG” won the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) block with a 4.8/10. Fox ran second with its comedy repeats, led by “The Simpsons” at 8:30 p.m. with a 4.4/9. The following hour was again ruled by CBS, with “The Guardian” earning a 5.3/10 followed by ABC’s sitcom tandem “Dharma & Greg” and “Spin City,” averaging a 4.7/9 for the hour. At 10 p.m., CBS’s “Judging Amy” took the top spot with a 6.0/11, followed by “NYPD Blue” with a 5.8/11.

Throw another ratings win on the fire: Ending a 12-year hiatus, Tribune-owned WPIX-TV, New York, returned the yule log to the air Christmas morning and won the 8 a.m.-to-10 a.m. time slot. The two-hour video of a log blazing in a fireplace while Christmas carols played averaged a 3.1 rating and 10 share in the Nielsen Station Index, propelling the WB affiliate to a No. 1 ranking in the Big Apple for the holiday, which was filled out with seasonal movies. From 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., WPIX averaged a 3.3/9, with WABC-TV ranking second for the day with a 3.0/8. The yule log was an annual fixture for New York viewers on WPIX from 1966 to 1989 and was brought back this Christmas.

KIRO, KCBS among Du Pont winners: CBS affiliate KIRO-TV, Seattle, earned an Alfred I. Du Pont-Columbia University award for the documentary “Why the Orcas of Puget Sound Are Dying.” “We are honored to be recognized for shedding light on an issue so critical to the people in our community,” said KIRO General Manager John Woodin.

Investigative reporter Randy Paige at CBS-owned KCBS-TV, Los Angeles, won a Du Pont award for his work investigating the use of lead paint in schools in the market. As a result of Mr. Paige’s work, a bill was introduced in the California legislature to inspect all schools, notify parents of inspection results and mandate cleanup of schools exposed to lead paint.

Other winners include Steve Kroft and Leslie Cockburn of CBS’s “60 Minutes”; David Martin and Mary Walsh of CBS News for national-security coverage; Jim Hoffer and WABC-TV, New York, for “Caught Off Guard”; CNN and Nic Robertson for “Northern Ireland: Dying for Peace”; Terence Wrong and Peter Bull of ABC News for “Hopkins 24/7,” Palfreman Films, “Frontline/NOVA” and WGBH-TV, Boston, for PBS’s “Harvest of Fear”; Steve Hartman and “The CBS Evening News” for “Everybody Has a Story”; Court TV for “The Interrogation of Michael Crowe”; Chip Yost and KOLD-TV, Tucson, Ariz., for “Exploding Patrol Cars?”

The awards ceremony, hosted by Tom Brokaw, will air on PBS stations Jan. 17.

Most news choppers back in the air: The Federal Aviation Administration last week lifted the bulk of the restrictions it was still imposing on news helicopter flights in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. On Dec. 19, the agency allowed news choppers to return to the skies in 27 of the top 30 markets and permitted limited access in the remaining three markets: Washington, New York and Boston. The FAA will continue to impose temporary flight restrictions in specific locations. The agency had earlier resumed aviation for news-gathering purposes in smaller markets. The Radio-Television News Directors Association, which had been pressing the Bush administration to let news helicopters fly again, hailed the decision.

Ted Turner re-ups: Ted Turner has renewed his contract as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner. The renewal comes less than two weeks after Richard Parsons, AOL TW’s incoming CEO, told Electronic Media he would be “reaching out” to Mr. Turner to convince him to “re-up.”

The renewal is for two years, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, hometown newspaper of the cable television empire Mr. Turner founded and then in 1996 sold to Time Warner, AOL TW’s predecessor company.

As recently as Nov. 27, during an appearance at the Western Show, Mr. Turner, AOL TW’s largest individual shareholder with nearly 4 percent of the company, talked of his estrangement from AOL TW management and particularly from Gerald Levin, its CEO. He said at the time that he regretted not having bought Time Warner, so that “I could have fired Jerry Levin before he fired me.” Mr. Turner also has said he learned he was being replaced as head of Turner Broadcasting by The WB’s Jamie Kellner only when the press release announcing the change was faxed to him.

In the wake of those comments, Mr. Turner’s departure from AOL TW’s management this month, when his contract expired, was widely considered to be a foregone conclusion. Instead, on Dec. 5, Mr. Levin shocked the industry by opting for early retirement and naming Mr. Parsons, widely respected for his diplomatic skills, to be his successor. That shock was followed by the bombshell announcement that Mr. Parsons would seek to return Mr. Turner to the AOL TW fold. “I think Ted is a wise man,” Mr. Parsons told Electronic Media when he revealed his intentions. “He knows more, particularly about the television space, which is at least a good third of this company.”

Separately, in yet another twist in the sometimes stormy relationship between Mr. Turner and AOL TW, Turner Broadcasting’s CEO, Mr. Kellner, the man who replaced Mr. Turner as head of the TBS empire, announced that the company is canceling its telecast of the Goodwill Games, according to a report on the Reuters wire service. The end of the Goodwill Games, which were created and nurtured by Mr. Turner, came on the same day that his contract renewal was announced.